City to Metrolinx: What’s the plan with the gas plants?

Tomorrow, City Council will ask Metrolinx, Crosslinx, and Toronto Hydro to clarify their plans for the gas plant at the Kodak lands: Will it be used only in emergencies, or also when electrical prices are high?

This is a very good question, and one Metrolinx should have answered some time ago. They said:

The gas-fired plant would probably only be used a “handful” of times a year as a back-up generator, according to Metrolinx.

It would have the capacity to run the entire Crosstown system to avoid peak demand times on the provincial power grid and save about 40 per cent on the price of electricity. It would also generate enough power to run the entire Crosstown system in a power outage, said a spokesman for the agency.

However, those two points don’t agree with each other.  40% price swings occur every day (even your residential energy prices double weekdays).

Price swings over the past 7 days
Price swings over the past 7 days

A final answer to this question will either galvanize or relieve Mount Denizens, many of whom have been opposed, quite reasonably, to a power plant in their community.

Metrolinx exploring alternatives to gas plant

InsideToronto has an interesting article on the ‘backup’ natural gas power plant at the Kodak lands. Metrolinx is, the article says, looking at “alternatives to the proposed natural gas powered backup facility at the Kodak lands that would provide the same functionality,”

Frances Nunziata says, however, “At the end of the day, I think (Metrolinx) will build what they originally recommended back in November.”

I think the concern is not whether a natural gas plant gets built: the concern should be how often it is used. Metrolinx is proposing that it will be used in the case of outages, to move the LRT trains, but also when the power system is under heavy load.

System-wide power outages happen very infrequently—only every few years, according to Metrolinx. Price spikes, though, happen very often indeed: yesterday, the price of electricity briefly hit $372/MWh, twenty times the typical price. Would Metrolinx fire up the generators to save a few bucks?

chart (1)

We will get a natural-gas plant. Let’s focus on a manageable goal: a sensible operation policy.

That natural gas plant should be operated only in emergencies, not for profit.

City to Mount Dennis: You’re stuck with the gas plant

City staff have reported on their meetings with Metrolinx about the gas plant at the Kodak Lands. While the tone of the report is neutral, it doesn’t look good.

Roughly 18MW
Roughly 18MW, according to the internet
Roughly 18MW
Roughly 18MW, the G says.

Metrolinx wants to build an 18 megawatt, natural-gas power plant on the Kodak site, which will soon be a transit hub and part of the Eglinton LRT. The gas plant will, they say, be used in emergencies—but also when the price of electricity is high. Community groups were not pleased.

City staff met with Metrolinx and their contractor about using ‘alternate’ energy instead of natural gas. The report says, more or less, “never going to work.”

Staff say that the roof of the building could support, at most, 1MW of capacity—far less than required. A back-up battery would be too expensive.

Yet Another Back Up Power Facility Update

Screen-Shot-2016-03-09-at-1.10

In MPP Laura Albanese’s latest e-newsletter, she comments on the Kodak Lands back-up generator issue,

Most commuters would agree that power failure such as that which occurred at the TTC recently due to weather conditions is a concern, and that some type of Backup Power for the Eglinton Crosstown would be beneficial in case of power outages. I am advocating together with the community for an alternative energy option, if one is viable.

The TTC power outage definitely is a concern but was caused by a transformer failure in a system built in the 1950s that is starved of funds and basically held together with masking tape and chewing gum. The transformer was the only source of power to that part of the subway. Had there been another connection to the power grid, subway service would have continued smoothly.

The alternative to building a gas fired generator on the Crosstown Line is to have more than one connection to the electrical grid. According to Metrolinx’s Jamie Robinson, it’s as simple as that. Although a battery option would be a quiet, emission-free solution if another connection was impossible, if we don’t need a generator, we don’t need alternative energy or diesel or windmills.

We certainly don’t need another building on the Kodak Lands site.

What happens next? There will no doubt be some expensive consultants’ reports that will declare the unworkability or huge expense of an alternate energy solution. They will then have to reluctantly recommend a gas generator.

The bottom line seems to be that based on faulty logic, someone is determined to sell Metrolinx a gas-fired generating station and it’s going to be built regardless of need or the wishes of the community.

I call BS.