The Meadow Lake Tribal council sees wood pellets as the future of the north for both heat and power.

It’s an industry in its infancy, but it is about to take a giant step forward with the construction of a 230 million dollar generating plant in Meadow Lake.

Construction will begin late this spring providing hundreds of jobs and creating a long term clean source of energy.  Ben Voss, the president of the tribal councils resource development arm says when the plant is up and running it will provide enough electricity to power 40 thousand homes.

He says the plant itself will burn largely wood waste from the sawmill.

“That bark, we have been typically burning it and not capturing any energy out of it.   So now, instead of burning it as a waste we are going to turn it into energy by using it as fuel and all that material will allow us to build this great big power plant.”

Voss was speaking at a symposium of environmental technologies in Regina about the future of the wood pellet industry in Saskatchewan.

Right now, in Northern Saskatchewan,  propane is the primary fuel.   It costs twice as much, is dangerous, and produces more pollutants than wood pellets.  Voss says there is a big demand for pellets, but it is still not an easy transition.

“You and I know that if our furnace breaks down we call the plumber and he can show up in 24 hours and fix it.      There isn’t that kind of guy right now.    There isn’t the he or she that is out there that says I am ready to fix  or install that pellet system.”

Voss expects the simple technology will eventually take over as the fuel for the north.  Voss is also chair of the first nations power authority,  which is working with Saskpower on a number of alternative energy power generating systems,  including the Meadow Lake Bioenergy centre.

It is expected to be producing electricity in about two years.