Power outages increase in northwest Saskatchewan

By Mac Christie

While last week’s devastating wind storm caused widespread damage and power outages it was not the first time this year the Meadow Lake area had lost power- and probably won’t be the last.

While SaskPower can’t say for sure how many outages they’ve had this year, spokesperson James Parker said it’s definitely higher than previous years.

“There’s been a large number of weather-related outages,” he said. “But we’ve also acknowledged that we do have ageing infrastructure, so you will see outages arising from equipment failure on occasion.”

Part of the problem, Parker added, is the Meadow Lake area is only served by one power transmission line, which runs all the way from North Battleford, and services communities as far north as Buffalo Narrows. If that line goes down, there are few alternate options.

“We understand there’s been a fair number of outages in Meadow Lake,” he said, “and it’s certainly frustrating to folks in the area, and the corporation. But we are investing in the system to make it more reliable.”

One such frustrated customer is Green Lake Gas and Grocery. Due to last Monday’s storm, the store was without power from Monday evening until Wednesday around 1 p.m.

Store manager Josh Ramshaw noted the store lost quite a bit of stock from the outage.

“We pretty much lost anything that was refrigerated or frozen,” he said. “I can’t say the exact cost, but probably close to the thousand dollar mark.”

While he confessed the store has dealt with power outages in the past, they’ve never lost products before, and added this year seems particularly high.

“We’ve had seven to nine outages,” he said. “That’s much higher than other years.”

Compounding the problem for the grocery store, is that they don’t have a back-up generator. Ramshaw said he has thought about getting one, especially if the outages continue.

“We’d need a honking big generator,” he said, “I’m going to talk to the owner about that for the future.”

Because the infrastructure issues and single transmission line are partially to blame for the outages, SaskPower is investigating ways to increase transmission to the region, but Parker noted it’s still in the internal stage.

“We know there’s an issue, and we’re looking at ways to address it,” he said.
Still, while it may be frustrating for area residents, Parker said infrastructure issues are far from a localized problem.

“We’re spending money all over Saskatchewan upgrading our equipment, our facilities and our generation,” he said. “It’s a major project. There’s utilities all over North America in the same position- we haven’t spent enough on our systems.”

This year, SaskPower is projected to spend $675 million this year on their system.
But it’s not just transmission lines that can cause problems.

Ramshaw said he found it odd that while power was out in Green Lake Tuesday, Beauval to the north had power all day.

The reason for that, said Parker, is Green Lake was dealing with a distribution issue.
While power is brought to the area by the larger transmission line, it is then goes through transformers and is carried to individual homes or businesses. If there’s an issue with distribution, the community won’t have power.

Regardless, Ramshaw said he plans to send SaskPower the bill for the store’s lost products.

“I’m sending them a bill for the ice cream,” he said.

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