Preeceville solar project first of 47 small-scale power generation projects

Just west of Preeceville, on the south side of Highway No. 49 are six rows of large solar panels, facing south. They are the latest addition to the SaskPower grid, producing power since the end of June.

It’s not easy being first, but S-Elect Energy of Preeceville accomplished just that. On July 10 SaskPower announced it was first project to come into service through the Power Generation Partner Program (PGPP).

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The S-Elect 284-kilowatt solar project completed commissioning on June 26, with the 20-year contract supply period beginning on June 27. The facility connects to the provincial electrical grid at the Stenen substation, which is located east of Preeceville, past Sturgis.

Jared Stefanyshyn is the man behind the project. He’s a 41-year-old electrician of 20 years. Stefanyshyn grew up in Regina, then moved to a farm at Briercrest, south of Moose Jaw. He went to Alberta to work in the oil patch for five years. Eleven years ago, Stefanyshyn set up shop as an electrician in Preeceville, where both of his parents originated.

Stefanyshyn wouldn’t say exactly how much the installation cost, other than it was “hundreds of thousands.”

The array is on land he purchased around 15 years ago. It is made up of 864 panels, with 12 converters. They tie into the grid at the power poles along the highway. There are 24 sets of panels, in six rows. The panels face south, tilted at an optimum angle to maximize their power output.

Stefanyshyn noted there was one hiccup in firing up. A transformer required replacement under warrantee, which delayed the commissioning three weeks.

“We should have been up and running the beginning of June. The company was really good fixing it,” Stefanyshyn said.

Being the first was a learning process for both himself and SaskPower, Stefanyshyn said.

“I broke trail for everything, it seems like everything, right from soup to nuts. It seemed like everything was new.”

Kilowatt-hours to the grid

When the ambient temperatures are higher, the array actually produces less power than it does on cooler days. Thus, on hot days in July, it will produce less power than cooler spring or fall days.

“In June I had a day where it produced 2,300 kilowatt-hours,” he said. “Today it was 1,810. On July 11, it was 2,003 kilowatt-hours. It depends on the sun.

“Cloudy days still produce, but minimally. I would say a bad day would be 400 to 500 kilowatt-hours in the summer. We’ve had some all-cloudy days in the summer. It was right around 400.”

In the wintertime he said the cooler days help the panels. “The best scenario is long days, cool days. So April, May, June are your good days.”

Thus in winter it will produce well, but the days are shorter.

Asked if he’s satisfied, Stefanyshyn replied, “I don’t know yet. If I was to do it again, I know a lot more.”

As for the outcome of the project, he said everything has worked the way he wanted it to work, except for the transformer failure. “It was a long road, a really long road to get there.”

Would he do it again?

“Probably? I think so. I don’t know. Until I get a year under (my belt), until I know what it will actually produce, I believe I would,” Stefanyshyn replied.

The PGPP provides customers with the opportunity to generate power through renewable generation, such as solar, or carbon neutral non-renewable generation, such as flare gas. In total, the PGPP will add up to 105 megawatts of renewable and carbon-neutral electricity to Saskatchewan’s generation mix.

SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry said on July 13 the Preeceville project was part of the first year of intakes. Two intakes have been completed and in late-June, a third intake was announced for late-October.

The first year had 25 projects, of which 18 were solar and seven were flare gas. The second year had 22 projects, with 10 solar and 12 flare gas. These projects are all limited to one megawatt in size each for solar, five megawatts each for flare gas. “Some come in right at the limit for both,” Cherry said.

The smallest size allowed is 100 kilowatts (0.1 megawatts).

More of these projects will be coming online “quite soon,” he said. The COVID-19 crisis did put a pause on some projects.

These are not “utility scale” projects, like the 10 megawatt solar projects SaskPower is pursuing. As a result, they are easier to tie into the grid.