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Biomass power plant proposed
SSI Micro president says more details to come

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jeff Philipp, the president and CEO of tech firm SSI Micro, says he's got a plan to build a biomass fuelled power plant in Fort Providence.

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Jeff Philipp: SSI Micro president says his company is working on plans to build a biomass power generation facility in Fort Providence.

"It's true that Snowshoe Inn has partnered with a local aboriginal firm in Fort Providence to build and operate a biomass power plant," Philipp told Deh Cho Drum.

Such a facility is still in the early stages. Once the project is complete, he said it will be fully owned by aboriginal people.

"This is phase one of a multiphase project over 10 years designed around community owned infrastructure," he said.

The details of the project remain murky, however, as Philipp is limiting what he's releasing at this point.

That includes the name of the partner company, a dollar figure associated with the work, construction timetables and the amount of power the facility would generate.

"I'm not really trying to keep it secret, I just wasn't ready to go public yet," he said.

He said once more things are finalized, he's looking forward to talking in more detail.

It would mean dozens of long-term jobs in Fort Providence, his hometown, he said.

Creating jobs in the community, whether at a power plant or in the forests gathering the wood that would fuel it, is the end goal, Philipp said.

He said without more jobs in the community, the social fabric of the hamlet will become weaker.

"So I have a plan," he said.

It would involve working with the aboriginal community to harvest wood and deliver it to the power plant where it would be chipped.

The Snowshoe Inn, owned by Philipp, would enter into a long-term power purchase agreement.

In an interview about the plans, which he sees as a project that can serve as an example to other territorial communities, Philipp said he has the money and the know-how to undertake the work.

Snowshoe Inn isn't connected to the main power distribution grid.

He said if it were reliant on power from outside, the cost of electricity would put the operation out of business.

"Our cost of power is significantly lower," Philipp said, adding that he spent $250,000 upgrading power infrastructure that already exists over the last 12 months.

He's very interested in ways to reduce power costs as a way to keep communities sustainable.

The GNWT has recently sought out ways to reduce the cost of power - last year in Yellowknife it hosted its second NWT Energy Charrette to gather ideas.

During a constituency tour of the Deh Cho region late last year, Premier Bob McLeod said the GNWT is looking to the area for future biomass power projects.

It's unknown if he was referring to Philipp's plan or had knowledge of it.

Philipp said for the past year he's been talking to the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe band, the Metis, the mayor and the GNWT about possible solutions to the cost of electricity.

When the historic forest management agreement was signed in the community last fall, he said it opened the door to the biomass project.

Another company is planning a wood pellet mill in Enterprise, a project Philipp said isn't associated with what will be built.

Instead of using wood pellets, he said the Fort Providence facility would use chipped wood because it's cheaper.

However, he said if people don't want the power plant, it can be shot down.

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