The Meadow Lake Tribal Council Bioenergy Centre is 12 months away from being fully functional, and those behind the project couldn’t be more pleased with the progress made on the facility thus far.

“Everything is going well and we’re completely on schedule,” noted Al Balisky, president of Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) Industrial Investments, the company that oversees NorSask Forest Products where the bioenergy centre is being constructed.

The MLTC Bioenergy Centre will generate carbon-neutral green power using sawmill biomass residuals. It will be the first plant of its kind in Saskatchewan and is expected to produce 6.6 megawatts of baseload electricity to power approximately 5,000 homes with greener energy. Shovels hit the ground at the site April 27 and, since then, work has been fast and furious.

On July 13, the thermal oil plant foundation was completed, while Aug. 26 and 27 saw the mobilization of a 330-ton crane completed by Sterling Crane out of Saskatoon. As of Aug. 31, 141 days had gone by with zero injuries and no lost time incidents.

“We are well into September and construction is getting busier and busier as we approach the colder months,” added project coordinator Brandon Hansen. “RobWel Constructors LP, a Clearwater River Dene Nation company, has been awarded contracts for the pre-engineered building for the Turboden ORC electricity generator and a contract to complete the thermal oil plant structural and mechanical installation services, which are both well underway right now. Robwel, with the assistance of Sterling Crane, have mobilized a 330-ton crane in the centre of the construction site that can be seen in the distance from the City of Meadow Lake. The crane is expected to be in full force until the end of 2020.”

Hansen went on to state One Five Construction alongside FDB Gravel have also been very active on the MLTC Bioenergy Centre’s construction throughout the summer months.

“These two companies have been working close together completing the majority of the earthworks, preparation for foundations as well as the required environmental remediation work for the bioenergy facility,” he added. “As for employment, there has been great representation from multiple Indigenous-owned companies and contractors who have helped throughout the project build. As of Aug. 31, 38 per cent of the hours recorded on-site have been fulfilled by self-identified Indigenous employees. As well, 18 per cent of total hours have been fulfilled by female employees and contractors.”

In the meantime, the MLTC Bioenergy Centre has a website updated daily anyone can access to follow along with the current status of the build. The site can be found at The project’s progress can also be tracked on Facebook by following MLTC Bioenergy Centre.

The project is expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by more than one million tons over 25 years, and reduce smoke and other harmful matter to significantly improve air quality for residents. Revenues from the plant will also support essential programs and services including child and family services, education, and health and youth development for the nine-member First Nations comprising the Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

The Government of Canada is contributing $52.5 million of the $75 million cost of the total project through the Green Infrastructure Stream of the Canada-Saskatchewan Integrated Bilateral Agreement under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

“We are all very excited with where things are headed, and quite pleased with the fact everything is on schedule,” Balisky remarked. “We should be nearing completion in about a year’s time and the centre should be fully functional by November or December of 2021.”

by Phil Ambroziak