Yet Another Back Up Power Facility Update

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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.

9 thoughts on “Yet Another Back Up Power Facility Update”

  1. Gimme a break. Another connection to the Toronto Power Grid won’t help if Toronto Power is down as has happened several times in Toronto so that’s not a solution and I think if it were as simple as that there wouldn’t be this thing built to begin with because I’m pretty sure it’s not cheap to build.

    Lot’s of people have natural-gas backup generators for their homes so I don’t know what the big deal is.

    1. The two connection solution (originally proposed by Metrolinx) would eliminate the power outage worry as the vast majority are local – if one connection has lost power, the other will still work and provide power to the system for a lot less money. Only two region wide outages have occurred; one in 1965 and another in 2003, hardly a good reason to build an expensive generator.
      Some private homes have natural gas powered generators averaging about 12kW. The proposed generator is 18.1MW, more than 1500 times bigger requiring a substantial footprint and consumption of fossil fuel. The heat, CO2 and particulate emissions on hot smoggy days would be an added bonus.
      You are right though about the fact that it won’t be cheap to build.

  2. Two concerns with the back-up:
    In an emergency like a fire in the tunnel, the backup would not be available in time to provide emergency ventilation or allow trains to move since the generators are not instant on

    With low voltage DC power needed for the tracks, can a single source provide power for a line reaching from Scarborough College to the airport? I don’t think it can be done with low voltage.

    1. Mike,
      Excellent points.
      You’re right, a generator would take a few minutes to fire up which could be costly in terms of safety during a fire.

      The Crosstown Line trains will run on 750v which is relatively low so high voltage lines (probably 115kv) would need to carry the power to transformers that would bring it down to 750v at both ends of the line. These would be unsightly and because of the high voltage, tall towers. Another good point.

      A connection to the power grid at two (or more) locations along the line would be simpler and cheaper and would save space on the Kodak site.
      Frankly I’m astonished that such considerations have yet to be discussed at a public meeting.

  3. Almost every building in the GTA gets its heat and hot water from natural gas. Natural gas exhaust is so safe that we cook with gas inside our houses, and vent the exhaust out the sides of our buildings at waist level. If you look at the huge plumes of water vapor that come from the tissue plant at Weston and Lawrence, you’ll see evidence that very large quantities of natural gas are already used in the area. In fact, I’ll bet that the tissue plant uses a lot more natural gas per year than the generators will. To the best of my knowledge, no one is suffering from all the natural gas that is used in the area.

    When natural gas is used to produce electricity the exhaust is no different. It is illogical to suggest that the tiny % increase in natural gas use by the generator will harm anyone, when it is already burnt in almost every building in the GTA, and used in large amounts by local industry.

    The benefits of cost-effective, reliable operation of the Crosstown will greatly offset the negative consequences of any carbon dioxide and water vapor that will be produced by the generators. For the reasons that I have listed above, and since there is no credible evidence to show that anyone will be harmed, I support the construction of the backup generator in my area.

    1. John, thanks for your articulate and well-reasoned response.
      I agree that the amount of pollution (mainly in the form of nitrogen oxides) created by the generator will in the larger scheme of things be relatively insignificant (if you regard factory quantities of NOX to be benign). My problem is that it appears to be the product of someone needing to sell taxpayers a generator rather than there being an actual need to generate power.
      Second, if this thing is needed, battery technology could supply the needed energy on a short-term basis and actually pay back its costs in the long run.
      Third, two or even three separate connections to the grid would fix the problem in all but the rarest of occasions.
      Lastly, as citizens, we can agree that people can’t be NIMBY all the time or else group homes, safe injection sites, low-income housing etc would never exist. I just feel that York South-Weston gets tapped on the shoulder to do this more than its fair share.
      Perhaps it’s time other neighbourhoods took a turn being good citizens.

      1. Thank you for your very kind response Roy. There are however, a number of things in your reply that I would like to respond to.

        I disagree with your statement that “…it appears to be the product of someone needing to sell taxpayers a generator rather than there being an actual need to generate power.”

        As a large user, the electricity for the Crosstown will be billed at the hourly wholesale rate as determined by the Independent Electricity System Operator. On particularly hot weekdays, for example, the wholesale price of electricity gets very expensive, and this is when the generators will likely be used. As the electricity generated at Mt. Dennis will be much cheaper than the hourly wholesale rate, there is potential for huge cost savings. Given the potential savings, the proposed generators could be very cost efficient.

        I disagree with your statement that “…battery technology could supply the needed energy on a short-term basis and actually pay back its costs in the long run.”

        Given that the wholesale price of electricity is normally quite low in the middle of the night, and considerably higher in the daytime, if this technology were viable, it would already be common, as it would be a license to print money. However, this is not the case, and I very much doubt that battery technology is a viable solution for the Crosstown.

        I disagree with your statement that “…we can agree that people can’t be NIMBY all the time or else group homes, safe injection sites, low-income housing etc would never exist. I just feel that York South-Weston gets tapped on the shoulder to do this more than its fair share. Perhaps it’s time other neighbourhoods took a turn being good citizens.”

        This plant will have a capacity of 18 MW (I asked), which means that it will have only 20% of the capacity of the generating station at the airport, 3.3% of the capacity of the Portlands station downtown and 2.1% of the capacity of the Goreway station in Brampton. Given the relatively trivial size of this facility, and the fact that no one who lives near those other facilities seems to be suffering, it is a stretch to suggest that we are being tapped on the shoulder to do more than our fair share.

        Furthermore, Metrolinx already owns a large parcel of land next to the Crosstown that is not suitable for parkland or residential use (unless you want it to sit vacant, and given the cost of land, that’s not reasonable). It is unreasonable to expect them to buy land somewhere else simply because some people in our neighbourhood don’t want the plant for no good reason.

        1. John,
          Just a final comment on the battery technology. This is relatively new as economies of scale are enabling cost effective solutions.
          Anyway, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree – not that anyone cares what you or I think!

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