By Bill Rea
It isn’t just Northland Power that’s interested in building a gas-powered peaking generator plant in the northern part of King Township.
Pristine Power Inc. is interested too, and is eyeing a property on Dufferin Street, just south of Ansnorveldt to that end.
The company hosted a public open house in the hamlet last Wednesday to outline what it has in mind.
The idea of such a plant was developed by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).
OPA is in the middle of a process to select a site for a plant that would be able to generate approximately 350 megawatts of power to serve the northern portion of York, as well as southern Simcoe County.
It was stated at the open house that electricity demand in northern York is expected to increase by more than three per cent annually over the next 10 years. The area gets its power through a line from the Claireville Transformer Station in Vaughan, which is already close to maximum capacity. The company also stated the need for this project was based on direction given by the Energy Minister in January.
Pristine President and CEO Jeff Myers said the company is the proposed developer of the project, as well as 50 per cent owner of the facility, that would be known as York Energy Centre. The other half would be owned by Harbert Power, which is based in Alabama.
He also said they have the land secured, in the event their proposal is the one selected by OPA. The property in question is about 33 acres on the east side of Dufferin Street, about half a mile south of Ansnorveldt., and the proposed plant would take up about five acres, although Myers said the size of the proposed plant has been shrinking as they move through the process.
He also said there are plans to landscaped the site, so people looking at the property will see “a lot of trees, we hope.”
“We think we can do a lot of tree screening with this because it’s not an industrial area,” Myers added.
Michael Dunn, director of project management for Pristine, said there will be smoke stacks to put out emissions from the plant. The maximum height would be 80 feet, he said, adding he doubted they would be that tall. He said they won’t be as tall as the nearby Hydro towers.
There have been suggestions during this process that a facility like the one being sought by OPA should go in an industrial area. But that’s not easy to do in this case, according to Myers. “There aren’t many industrial areas around here,” he observed.
As well, it was pointed out that this location is near the Holland Junction facility, along with natural gas pipeline infrastructure. “You’ve got to be in proximity of that,” Dunn observed.
He also commented that lower capital costs will appeal to OPA when the proposals are being evaluated.
The company is maintaining that their facility will use modern gasfired generation technology. Sulfur dioxide emissions will be negligible because there’s not much sulfur in natural gas. The emissions from the plant will be the same as those from a natural gas home furnace, and the noise levels will be less than that heard in a typical conversation.
While the property is on agricultural land, and will take some land out of production, Myers said it’s not part of the Holland Marsh.
The Ministry of the Environment has stringent conditions that must be met for such a plant to stay in operation. “You’re shut down if you don’t meet those requirements,” Myers said.
It’s expected the plant is only going to operate about 10 per cent of the time, during periods when demand for electricity is high. Myers said it’s not possible to store power in bulk, adding peaking generation could replace the need for more transmission.
“From an economic standpoint, this is the best bang for the buck,” Dunn added, pointing out it’s cheaper than importing power from the United States on peak days.
Myers was reluctant to speculate on Pristine’s chances of being chosen to build the plant.
“There are a lot of variables in a process like this,” he observed. “Right now, it’s kind of hard to handicap.”
He added the reception they have received from the public so far has been mainly negative. “I don’t think I’m surprised by this,” he said.
“People fear the worst and hear the worst,” Dunn added, “so that’s what they believe.”
He added once OPA has made a decision, people in the area will start listening. “The fears go away,” he said.
Councillor Jack Rupke was on hand for the open house, and he said his reaction to the information was “like it’s always been.”
“I want to be informed,” he added.
He said he was getting some answers, but was still supporting the resolution that council passed last month, handing the matter to Township staff so they can peer review all the available information.
Rupke couldn’t speculate on when that report would be ready. “I hope it comes as soon as possible, but I don’t think it is in the control of the municipality right now,” he commented.
He added people have to understand there are four companies making proposals for a plant in four municipalities. “OPA’s the one that’s going to be making the decision where it goes,” he said.
Local resident Clayton de Vries expressed concerns that this proposal is slated to go on the provincial Greenbelt.
“It’s unfortunate, as far as the Greenbelt is concerned,” he commented. “I’m looking for someone to defend the Greenbelt.”
He pointed out the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association recently received a $400,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, yet there was this proposal that will put a plant there.
“It’s actually being farmed,” he said, “market vegetables.” Debbie Schaefer, representing Concerned Citizens of King Township (CCKT) also expressed concerns for the Greenbelt. “I’m very, very disappointed that we have another gas company that is making a bid to build a gas-fired generator on the Greenbelt; on land that;s being farmed,” she declared. “This is just madness.”