The co-chairman of the region’s Energy Task Force says a proposed provincial biomass allotment for the converted Thunder Bay Power Generating Station isn’t large enough.
Iain Angus on Monday said he wants the province to increase the amount of pellets on hand at any given time from 15,000 to 75,000 tonnes and replenish the pile any time it sinks below the new threshold.
At present the plan in place would see the generating station supplied with 75,000 tonnes of pellets to start, with 15,000 tonnes a year replenished under a five-year contract.
Angus said had that been the case in 2014, the plant would have burned through its annual allotment in a matter of weeks dealing with increased demand due to cold weather.
And with several mines slated to come on stream by decade’s end, the problem is only going to get worse.
He pointed to Manitoba, where 4,000 people are without natural gas heat after a pipeline explosion.
“We will be in that same situation. Until we’ve got the east-west tie in place, we will not have enough power in the Northwest to deal with issues like this severe weather,” Angus said.
A similar situation could arise when warmer weather hits and drought conditions arrive, potentially hurting the region’s ability to produce hydro-electric power.
According to figures provided by the Energy Task Force, the generating station has produced 30,047 megawatt hours of energy in 2014.
Angus said 15,000 tonnes of advanced biomass would produce between 25,000 and 30,000 megwatts, an entire year’s supply.
“It is interesting to note that the 25,000 target was met at noon on Jan. 25 and only took an additional 28 hours to reach the higher target of 30,000,” he said.
The province initially halted conversion of the TBGS to natural gas, saying it could save $400 million in the process, adding the power just wasn’t needed in the region. The province then compromised, approving a temporary shift to biomass to fill the gap until the enhanced east-west tie line is constructed.
The task force countered that the 80 megawatts growth being projected by the Ontario Power Authority between now and 2020 was way off, figures the province ultimately agreed with, upping their projections as high as 500 megawatts.
“We’ve proven to them that our information is much more accurate than theirs and they’ve got to start listening to the experts up here in Northwestern Ontario.”
Thunder Bay Generating Station management was contacted but were unavailable to provide comment.