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Saturday, July 4, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Generating electricity for an electricity generator

New project would use waste heat from Elmira Bio-En facility to help power the biogas plant itself

First there was the Bio-En Power Inc. plant. Now an electrical storage facility has been approved. Next up, a small generating station on adjacent property in the north-Elmira industrial area.

A proposal by Marbro Capital would see a 125-kilowatt generator use waste heat from the biogas plant to create electricity. That would reduce the operation’s demand from the grid, says Marbro president Chuck Martin.

The company is awaiting the go-ahead from the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) before bringing a plan to Woolwich Township. In the meantime, it wants the municipality to hold off on placing additional restrictions on the industrial land off of Martin’s Lane.

In recently approving the NextEra Energy plan for a battery storage facility on a 4.2-acre site at 50 Martin’s Lane, Woolwich planners suggested putting a holding provision on the remaining portion of that property owned by Marbro Capital. A similar move was made for land adjacent to the McKee Farm Technologies site next door, but council put a freeze on that while Marbro works out the details on the new generating station.

Martin noted the land is already essentially self-limiting in its uses given the lack of municipal services such as water and sewers.

“It’s already very restrictive. Really, it is under hold,” he said.

Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, said the provision is needed in part to keep land available for a future Arthur Street bypass route, which is likely to run along the east side of Elmira if and when it ever goes ahead.

Staff had no problems with the battery storage facility in that regard given its location on the site.

“We were satisfied that NextEra wasn’t going to impact the potential bypass to go through,” he explained.

Acknowledging the bypass issue, Martin said the company could see some kind of hold on the area identified as a possible bypass route, but not blanket coverage. A sweeping holding provision would make any additional plans for lands outside of the route more cumbersome because a zone change and related studies would be needed, while the township already has planning provisions in place there.

Marbro Capital president Chuck Martin is waiting on regulartory approval for a plan to build a generator project that will use heat from the biogas plant to create electricity. [Joe Merlihan / The Observer]

Specifics on the proposed generating plant are awaiting approval from the IESO, but Martin said he’s optimistic the project will be approved, noting Waterloo North Hydro has an obligation to put conservation projects into effect to help reduce energy demand. While many of the projects involve retrofits such as new lighting, the proposal falls right in the wheelhouse.

At 125 kW, it would provide enough to power to meet the base-load demands of the plant, though not peak demand, which is about double that rate, said Martin. All the electricity would be used onsite, not fed into the grid.

The generator would be powered by waste heat from the biogas plant. After the heat is used to make steam, there will be some low-level heat left over, which can be used to provide space heating at an existing nearby building or some potential future development of, say, warehouse space.

“That would fit in there without complications,” he said, noting some dry industrial uses could be accommodated today.

Future servicing of the north-end industrial land is still a ways off, with a bypass route in the township’s plan for development there. The trick now is to get the Region of Waterloo to sign on for building an alternative to Arthur Street, a regional road. Woolwich wants the region to make a bypass route part of its transportation master plan.

That said, the township is not holding its breath. Planners are working on boundary rationalization in settlements across the township, redrawing borders and charting potential future development. In Elmira, that includes making provision for a new route along the east side of town.

“We’re pushing for that with the region,” said Kennaley. “But we’re not putting all our eggs in that basket.”

Either way, construction isn’t happening anytime soon – “It may be many years, however.”

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