Noordam: ‘I just have a feeling that if I let this project go through, I’ve let a fox in the hen house’

NORTH PERTH – Members of council criticized and reminisced of the history North Perth has with Invenergy, before defeating a decision to grant their support to the Palmerston Energy Storage Centre at its Nov. 20 meeting. 

This discussion, which spanned two council meetings, began with representatives from Palmerston Energy Storage Centre LP attending the Nov. 13 council meeting seeking support for their proposed project and bid to the province. 

According to a letter sent to council, Palmerston Energy Storage Centre is controlled by CCL-CFT Limited Partnership, and being developed in collaboration with Invenergy. 

According to a letter to council, Invenergy is a leading privately-held, global developer and operator of sustainable energy solutions with over 31 gigawatts developed in Ontario and internationally. CC&L – CFT Limited Partnership is an Ontario partnership between CC&L Infrastructure and CarbonFree Technology. Together, the Toronto-based partners have developed, financed, constructed, and operated hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy projects in Ontario and internationally.

Elma Ward Coun. Dave Johnston reminded council of Invenergy’s history in North Perth at the Nov. 13 council meeting. 

“I know that this is a partnership between CCL-CFT in collaboration with Invenergy and just a history lesson, Invenergy has a very poor track record in North Perth when they brought a turbine proposal many years ago, and it turned very ugly,” he said. “Some neighbours still do not speak over Invenergy. There were many house foundations poured in the middle of a field to try and stop turbines and it was nasty times in North Perth. And it was because of Invenergy, just to remind everybody of that.”

The proposed project was a lithium-ion Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) and would be built on approximately 10 acres of leased land within the Municipality of North Perth. The proposed project site was located at 6289 Wellington Road 123, west of Road 152 and east of the Town of Palmerston.

Johnston asked if the site would be 10 acres of warehouse, or what the site would look like, and why was this location selected. 

“Why this area, because we are trying to protect farmland and this is some of the best farmland in Ontario,” he said. “We are trying to protect farmland and produce food, but I know we need energy to produce food, so they go hand in hand, but I just wonder why such prime agricultural land was selected?”

Representative for the project, Mike Enright, explained there would be concrete footings and gravel with buildings on top.

“Ultimately, it is a 20-year contract and post-contract it would be returned to a similar use,” he told council. “It is a temporary land use change for the purpose of the energy storage facility.” 

As for why the location, the answer is its proximity to the Hydro One transmission line. 

The purpose of BESS is to: improve the ability of the electric grid by adapting to rapid changes in demand and electricity generation; be used during short-term spikes in electric system demand that may otherwise require the use of lower-efficiency, higher-cost generation resources, and; serve as back-up power to minimize and prevent power outages and service interruptions from extreme weather.

Wallace Ward Coun. Marc Noordam asked if solar and wind energy projects work hand-in-hand with battery storage centres.

“To be perfectly honest, in an ideal world they are co-located and that would be ideal, but the fact of the matter is our project is strictly an energy storage facility and that is the RFP we are responding to,” Enright answered. 

Noordam asked why the neighbours around the project have been bombarded with salespeople with lease agreements for solar projects. 

“I’m getting the idea that it is because of this project, and they want to sell to you guys,” he added. 

Enright added that Ontario will also be releasing an RFP specifically for solar and wind energy but he reiterated that is an entirely separate process and separate projects. 

“Once these projects are in the ground, they don’t get reopened, they don’t become mixed with other companies, they are independent, they’re standalone, and I assure you this is solely a battery storage facility,” he said.

Noordam didn’t seem convinced and said, “I just have a feeling that if I let this project go through, I’ve let a fox in the hen house.” 

Listowel Ward Coun. Neil Anstett told council there are similar projects proposed in Wellington North and Brockton, and he questioned whether three similar facilities are necessary all within an hour’s drive from each other. 

“There’s going to be proposals submitted to ISO for evaluation and ultimately, there’s going to be more projects proposed than are required,” Enright said. “And ultimately, it is up to the system operator to choose which projects meet Ontario’s energy demands most appropriately.”

After a lengthy discussion at the Nov. 13 council meeting, council ultimately voted 9-1 – Coun. Noordam voted in opposition – to defer the decision until staff could provide a report with further information. 

Staff report

At the Nov. 20 meeting, Manager of Development and Protective Services/Fire Chief Janny Pape, and CAO Kriss Snell, presented a joint report to council. 

“With respect to fire safety concerns, project representatives have confirmed the project will be designed, constructed, and operated to mitigate thermal runaway and risk of fire,” Pape wrote in her report. 

She added that this would include the installation of detection equipment and climate control system in accordance with the Ontario Building Code and National Fire Protection Association Standards. 

“Should the project be awarded, an emergency response plan will be developed in consultation with local first responders,” she said. “The project team committed to providing training for first responders with these costs borne by the project rather than the municipality.”

She added that the property falls under a fire protection agreement with the Minto Fire Department, however, in the event of a fire at the facility, North Perth’s Hazardous Response Agreement with GFL Environmental would be triggered. She added that costs for response and site remediation would be invoiced to the property owner under North Perth’s Rates & Fees bylaw.

Additionally, the requirement for on-site water for firefighting purposes will be determined through the building permit application process. 

According to the report to council, the project team committed to upgrading the portion of Road 152 which is currently a no- winter maintenance road to municipal standards.
“Access and emergency access will be an integral component of the site plan review involving both the County of Wellington and North Perth road authorities,” Snell told council. 

Snell reiterated that the project is still in the proposal phase, and there are still many questions to be answered as it proceeds through the process. 

“Should the applicant be successful in being awarded a contract, the application will be required to go through the usual approvals, including fire, building, and planning,” Snell said. “At present, staff do not foresee any safety, environmental or financial issue that will not be addressed either by future North Perth processes or other regulatory agencies.” 

Despite staff’s willingness to see the project proceed, council defeated a motion to support the proposed Palmerston Energy Storage Centre with a vote of 0-9 at the Nov. 20 meeting. 

More information about the Palmerston Energy Storage Centre is available on their website (https://palmerstonstorage.com/) and questions the public may have about the project can be directed to palmerstonenergystoragecentre@invenergy.com.

By Kelsey Bent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 24, 2023 at 07:55

This item reprinted with permission from   Listowel Banner   Listowel, Ontario

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