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Letter: Many questions remain regarding the phase out of coal power

A letter to the editor on the challenges associated with alternatives to coal-fired power generation.
Coal dragline near Estevan
A letter to the editor on alternatives to coal-fired power generation.

The editor:  

Saskatchewan has been in a green transition period for more than a few years.  

We are supposed to say no to dirty coal, even though it is no longer dirty and hasn’t been for quite some time.   

We are to say goodbye to coal even though these mined areas are reclaimed and put back into useful production, and about 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide emissions are, or can be, captured and put to use for enhanced oil recovery or in the construction and cement production sectors to assist them in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Or they may be stored underground.

Even the heat from a current coal-fired plant is used in a greenhouse that provides hundreds of thousands of seedling trees, bushes and flowers. Somehow, that translates to dirty in the eyes of some folks. 

So, coal must go? 

Hello solar power, hello wind-generated power, hello nuclear reactors. The limited hydropower in Saskatchewan is welcomed, while natural gas plants are destined to suffer the same fate as coal-fuelled operations as soon as the renewable producers find full footing and the carbon tax goes to $70 per tonne and more.  

So, let’s take a quick look at options. This is where the questions come in and I’m hoping the respective industries have answers.  


Whereabouts in Canada are the solar panels being built? I am under the impression solar panels require rare earth minerals and to date China has captured about 85 per cent of that market. There are some of these minerals in Canada, but so far, not enough have been found in one place to warrant serious mining operations to retrieve them.  

So far smaller corporate entities have been given contracts to provide solar power. Are they subsidized? What happens when these companies merge or are taken over by another company? Can solar panels provide even a miniscule 400 megawatts of power within two years? How many acres of land would that involve? How close to the existing power grid do these panel fields have to be and still retain some efficiency?  


There are similar questions for the wind power advocates. Like solar, they can’t provide baseload power unless they figure out how to use batteries for storage. There are a few questions about batteries later.   

Who is manufacturing wind generators in Canada? Who is installing them and maintaining them? What happens when the company ownership changes? How many acres to produce 400 megawatts? Can SaskPower step in and take over? How far can a field of wind generators be from the main electrical grid(s) and still be (unsubsidized) efficient?  

When wind generator housings and giant blades need to be replaced and recycled, who does that? Where? How? Cost?    

Electric vehicles/batteries:  

Again, batteries for cars (or future generators) require lithium. Those batteries take lithium-ions. Lithium needs to be mined.  

Lithium is sometimes found in oil wells. But oil is on the hit list.   

Where are they being manufactured? 

How do millions of lithium-ion and cobalt and, zinc (also mined) nickel (mined) induced batteries get recycled? Where? When? Cost?  

When will an electrically powered, affordable four-five passenger unsubsidized vehicle take me 200 kilometres to Regina in the morning, allow me to drive another 60 kilometres in that city and bring me back home, in minus -25 C weather with my heater and defroster on medium flow, and not require a significant time out for a recharge?  

How much additional electrical power will be required in Saskatchewan to charge and recharge tens of thousands of electrical vehicles on a continual basis? What will each recharging station cost to install? How much will each recharge cost?

Cars and trucks will go electrical but what about trains and planes?     


I have not heard of any nuclear plant, large or small ever being built within the proposed budget. They are costly to operate and then close and decommission at end of life. If they suffer a failure the results can be deadly, not just inconvenient.   

Again, cost factors to operate and maintain must be studied in an equitable manner. Will the small nuclear reactors that are now being touted as a Saskatchewan saviour be in the hands of, and operated by, private companies or SaskPower? Will they be built in Canada? Where will the spent fuel rods be buried or stored?  

Just another point: the uranium used for many nuclear plants is mined in Saskatchewan. So is coal. 

Final question: can the Riders make it to the Grey Cup?   

Norm Park