Updated: Coal generation fleet down, cause of widespread power outages unknown

Much of Saskatchewan was dealing with power outages caused by frost and wind taking out power lines on Dec. 4. (Screen capture/SaskPower)

SaskPower has confirmed that its entire fleet of coal-generated power plants went down this morning. The Shand, Boundary and Poplar River stations all tripped, and are in the process of coming back online.

The Crown corporation is still unsure what caused the widespread power outage that is currently impacting southeast and central Saskatchewan.

SaskPower staff is working to get the coal-fired generation plants back up and running, but they don’t know if they have the infrastructure intact to distribute power once the plants are back online.

At a media update held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, officials said the outage currently extends East and south of Regina to the province’s borders, up to Saskatoon, and north to just south of Prince Albert.

Crews have spent much of the morning trying to figure out how far the outage stretched. As the utility still doesn’t know what’s behind the outage, they can’t currently provide an estimated time power will be restored.

In the Legislature Tuesday afternoon, Premier Scott Moe warned residents that as the day draws on the outage may get bigger, and places where power has previously been restored may see it go out again.

Additionally, SaskPower has been dealing with sagging and downed powerlines since Friday, which crews are working hard to repair and restore. Residents should treat any downed lines as if they’re live and give them a wide berth.

The only thing SaskPower can do to clear the lines of frost is wait for the sun to come up.

The provincial utility is focusing on getting areas like Regina and other major centres back up and running. Those who can are encouraged to check the SaskPower website and social media accounts for updates.

In response, the province has activated its emergency measures protocol. The Ministry of Government Relations is working with impacted municipalities, First Nations and individuals to assist in whatever is needed, including setting up shelters and warming locations.

Residents in affected areas are being asked to reach out to their community’s leaders to determine what is in place for them.

The outage is also having impacts on SaskTel’s network.

According to a spokesperson, much of the network is currently running on emergency backup power. Generators are being deployed to core and priority sites with the focus on keeping voice and wireless services running. SaskTel is mobilizing as many generators as they can.

“We will keep the generators running,” said Darcee MacFarlane.

According to SaskPower’s outage map, the Duck Lake and Domremy areas are the closest to Prince Albert without power. Saint Louis has power, as do the areas surrounding Prince Albert. Saskatoon also has power, though outages come up to the area’s northeastern boundary. A corridor stretching from Rosthern to the area surrounding Melville is out, as are parts of Regina, Moose Jaw and surrounding areas.