Residents Sophiasburg have mixed feelings about a battery energy storage system that could be built nearby.
Over the last month, locals living on County Road 5 were sent letters about a proposed battery energy storage system (BESS) that could take up 15 acres.
Picton BESS Limited Partnership (LP) responded to a request for proposal from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) for grid battery storage to support increasing provincial electricity needs and grid stability. It has proposed a 300 Mega-Watt (MW) stand-alone lithium-ion battery storage facility on leased land.
Initially, the developer Picton BESS LP planned a public consultation meeting on Nov. 15, but it was cancelled.
There was also some confusion in the community on whether the developer was in communication with the local government, with PEC council not being made aware of the project until early November.
Safety concerns surrounding lithium-ion mass battery storage remain top-of-mind for affected residents. There can be associated risks of thermal runaway causing intense and difficult-to-control fires. In 2019, several firefighers were severely injured during an explosion at a lithium-ion battery energy storage system in Arizona, U.S.A.
On their website, Picton BESS LP claims that the facility will have a battery management system, dedicated HVAC, constant monitoring, and sponsored specialized training for local firefighters.The proposed facility will need approval by Prince Edward County under its current Official Plan.
In the meantime, concerned residents have created an information/awareness group on Facebook.
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In a later CJPE interview with Compass President Jonathan Cheszes and Capstone Corporate Communications Manager Megan Hunter, some details were clarified on the timeline of Picton BESS LP’s engagement with the municipality.
Communication with Prince Edward County
Picton BESS confirmed that it first established communications with PEC staff in September, and that CAO Marcia Wallace advised them not to communicate with council until after the October municipal elections (this was later verified by an email from CAO Wallace). Cheszes stated that this was the reason behind the cancellation of the planned public consultation meeting on Nov. 15.
Further details were also given about the relationship between the various entities involved with Picton BESS -- namely that Compass is developing the site with the support of Capstone, and that if the project advances further, Capstone may become a partial owner. As well, Wahgoshig Solar FIT5 LP (an entity comprised of Compass, Wahgoshig First Nation, and private investors), was subsequently removed as a participant in Picton BESS due to uncertainty over their involvement in the project.
When asked about the risks associated with the BESS technology, both Cheszes and Hunter voiced their strong belief in the safety of BESS technology, especially with revised safety standards now in place (such as NFPA 855, UL 9540, and UL 9540A).
Cheszes added that the province believes they are safe with the directive from the Ministry of Energy calling for no less than 900MW of energy storage, and the responding procurement by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator being designed for battery type storage projects in particular.
On the specific safety features of the Picton BESS site itself, Cheszes outlined that in addition to 24/7 monitoring, there will be built-in fire suppression, battery isolation blocks, and potentially physical fire breaks installed to prevent the surrounding field (which is an active farm) from catching fire.
Picton BESS LP will receive notice from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator on Nov. 30 on how many acres of the 15 acre leased site will be permitted for utilization. Cheszes also mentioned that the site (which is currently zoned for agriculture) was selected due to its proximity to the Picton transformer station and 230 Kilovolt (Kv) power transmission lines, and that while there are residentially zoned properties close-by, the land use is mixed when factoring in the electrical infrastructure, and the nearby quarry and utility scale solar farm.
Compass has now scheduled another public consultation for Dec. 6. They plan to present to PEC council in early January.
Besides Compass' proposed site on County Road 5, Wallace also confirmed that Abundant Solar is proposing a pair of BESS projects: one located at 570 Mowbray Rd., and another situated on Miller Road (east of Thompson Road).