Northern York Region gets its long-awaited peaking plant
King Township, Ontario: In a process that stretched out over more than 7 years, a new 400 MW power plant has begun operation in Northern York Region. Construction was completed on the York Energy Centre (YEC), about 20 miles north of Toronto, in May 2012, following a lengthy and sometimes contentious siting process that ultimately proved successful. “I have no doubt that the residents of York Region will benefit handsomely from the presence of YEC,” said APPrO Executive Director Jake Brooks. “The plant will contribute to the reliability of electrical supply in the region and reduce the need for major transmission, to say nothing of generating a good deal of local economic activity.”
Veresen, the developer-owner of the project, hosted an inaugural event on June 7 that quickly took on a celebratory atmosphere. Attended by close to 200 people including community representatives, power industry officials, and many who were involved in the development of the project, the assembly was an opportunity for Veresen to recount its experiences with the project and highlight the scope of its achievement.
"This is a major accomplishment for Veresen," said Stephen White, President and Chief Executive Officer of Veresen. “We met or exceeded all of our delivery milestones, and I am extremely proud of the tremendous effort and hard work of everyone involved in this project to see it through to completion.” Mr. White told the audience in King Township that his company took a long term view when it invested in the York Energy Centre: “This project was built for the future,” he said, noting that, “We expect to be holding on to it for 20 years or more.” With such remarks, White sent important signals about the project’s fundamentals to the power plant’s neighbors, to investors, and to the electricity market, indications that augur well for the stability of this type of generation in Ontario.
Designed to provide peaking generation, the YEC will help address the need for "quick response" power as identified by the OPA for northern York Region. The facility is able to respond rapidly to calls from the IESO for electricity during times of peak demand and will provide critical grid support.
Julia Ciccaglione, Veresen's Vice President of Regulatory and Government Affairs, outlined some of the history behind the project. The region had been identified by the Ontario Power Authority as in need of either power generation or new bulk transmission. Both options were controversial in the municipalities that make up York Region. Although it took several years for the Ontario Power Authority to select a bidder and a site, once Veresen was chosen, the construction process went very quickly. The project came in on budget and ahead of schedule, Ciccaglione noted.
In fact the construction and development of YEC appears to have enjoyed exceptional performance in terms of environment, health and safety: There was no work time lost to accidents during the entire process. In addition, the company has undertaken a creek restoration and wetland enhancement project, affecting a small waterway that crosses the property. “The enhancement work establishes an eco-system linkage between two provincially significant wetlands,” Ciccaglione says.
There is a lot of Canadian content in the facility. The plant uses two Siemens SGT6-PAC 5000F combustion turbines. The turbines were built in Hamilton by Siemens at what used to be the former Westinghouse plant. The stacks were made by IST in Cambridge, Ontario. The project has a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority. Construction of the YEC started in September 2010 with an aggregate budgeted capital cost of $338 million. The YEC is jointly-owned by Veresen and an affiliate of Harbert Power, LLC, an independent power firm based in the United States. Veresen is the operator of the facility.
Veresen Inc. (TSX: VSN) is a Calgary-based energy infrastructure company with three main lines of business: pipelines, natural gas and natural gas liquids processing, and power generation. Built in part from the company previously known as Fort Chicago, it bought Pristine Power in 2010 and changed its name to Veresen in 2011. Pristine Power had been active in power generation development in Ontario and western Canada for almost a decade. Veresen currently has power generation assets in Prince Edward Island, London, Ontario, Windsor, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Colorado and California.