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Proposed Opitciwan forest biomass cogen plant ticks “every box”

February 10, 2023 | By Anthony Capkun

February 10, 2023 – The Conseil des Atikamekw d’Opitciwan (CAO), Hydro-Quebec (HQ) and the Société en commandite Onimiskiw Opitciwan (SCOO) have come to an agreement to build a forest biomass cogeneration plant to supply Opitciwan.

“Replacing the current diesel plant with one that’s powered by forest biomass from the sawmill is a huge step forward,” said Denis Clary, president, Société en commandite Onimiskiw Opitciwan. “Cutting annual GHGs emissions is good for our people’s health and helps improve the environmental performance of Quebec and Canada, as well.”

With an installed capacity of 4.8 MW, the plant is scheduled for commissioning in July 2026. The 25-year agreement, which has the option of a 15-year extension, also involves the acquisition and installation of a dryer at the Opitciwan sawmill.

The current diesel generators “must be kept as a back-up source to ensure power supply reliability”, says Hydro-Quebec, but adds “diesel consumption is expected to decrease by roughly 85%”.


When operational, this off-grid system will be the first of its kind in an Indigenous community in the province, says Hydro-Quebec.

With the overall costs at an estimated $60.2 million, provincial and federal government contributions will be required, adds Hydro-Quebec, along with investments from SCOO and CAO. It is expected that 40 workers will be hired for the construction phase of the project, with about 15 permanent jobs remaining once the facility is up and running.

“Not only does [the plant] tick every box in terms of social acceptability, sustainability and technical viability, but it will also spur social and economic development,” said Jean-Claude Mequish, Chief, Conseil des Atikamekw d’Opitciwan. “I am confident that the governments of Quebec and Canada will put their shoulder to the wheel to ensure the necessary funding for its realization.”

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