City council to discuss Capital Power proposal for two natural gas turbines

The East Windsor Cogeneration Centre is shown in a photo from Capital Power. (Submitted by Capital Power - image credit)
The East Windsor Cogeneration Centre is shown in a photo from Capital Power. (Submitted by Capital Power - image credit)

Capital Power is generating some heat from Windsor environmental groups, with planned additions to their east Windsor site.

The power company wants to add 100 megawatts of capacity through two natural gas-powered turbines – a change from the original battery storage system that was proposed in Sept. 2022.

City council will discuss the company's plans at a meeting next Monday.

With the $4.9-billion Stellantis-LG Energy Solution electric vehicle battery plant slated to open in 2024, with Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) expecting energy demand to grow by 2,000 megawatts over the next five years, the company was assessing whether it could expand capacity within the plant last fall.

Kiemia Rezagian, member of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council, said she isn't surprised at the shift, but she is "certainly disappointed".

"They still have the option to make a proposal of a clean electricity system that meets Windsor's needs, but instead they are proposing this system that harms our air quality, increases air pollution, is bad for public health, is bad for the climate," she said.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) believes adding more "dirty energy" will stunt economic growth in the city.

"An increasingly dirty electricity supply will jeopardize Windsor's ability to attract the electric vehicle and battery plants that will be needed to achieve its goal of becoming a centre for electric and autonomous vehicle manufacturing," it said in a press release.

The group said companies like Stellantis, Ford, General Motors and Porsche have "made it clear they want zero-carbon electricity."

The original 40 megawatt battery energy storage system the company proposed last fall was meant to help with the growing energy demand, by storing enough energy to power 40,000 homes.

Jay Shukin, stakeholder and Indigenous engagement manager with Capital Power, told CBC News the batteries only store energy from renewable energy sources, and cannot generate it.

"Current battery technology is limited to 4 hours of duration before it requires recharging and is not suitable to power factories and businesses that require reliable and continuous energy," he said, adding that Capital Power will "review the potential for a battery installation".

Capital Power media representative Katherine Perron said the turbines can be used if renewable energy resources, like solar power or wind power, are low.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Perron said IESO told the Capital Power there was "sufficient local transmission capacity" that allowed them to add 100 megawatts, which will help the company meet demand for "anticipated economic growth" in the Windsor-Essex region.

Shukin said power lines "can only carry a certain amount of power" and the IESO giving the green light on the turbines means the lines had room to transmit more power.

Shukin said Capital Power has done studies on "noise, air quality, stormwater management, natural environment, heritage, and socio-economic factors."

He said the company is "committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2045" and that the turbines, which can be partially powered by hydrogen, support that objective.

But Rezagian said changing legislation could make the natural gas turbines a costly endeavour in the coming decades.

"The federal government has plans to put forward the Clean Electricity Standard, which would push the Canadian electrcity grid to be clean by 2035 and if this happens, we would no longer be able to use the gas plants and people in Windsor who pay for their electricity bill would still be on the hook, paying for the gas plants that are no longer in use," she said.

Windsor City Council passed a climate emergency declaration in Nov. 2019, which OCAA said "recognizes the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions."

Rezagian said the Youth Climate Council is hoping city council "stays firm in their climate leadership, acts as clean electricity leaders, and says no, we don't want in our community gas plants that cause pollution and impacts our climate."

Windsor city council will look at passing a resolution to support Capital Power's plan to add the two gas-powered turbines at its meeting on Monday.

Rezagian said residents who would like to share their thoughts on the natural gas turbines can write to city council or they can appear Monday at the city council meeting.

"This is our future, this is our air," she said.