Energy project opponents and supporters overwhelm Napanee Council meeting

Napanee Town Hall, located at 124 John Street. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Greater Napanee Town Council had to invoke its recently changed firm adjournment time on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, when its meeting went nearly four hours, thanks to deputations mainly opposing the new electricity infrastructure projects proposed in town.

The meeting hosted 17 deputations about three separate proposed energy projects: the Napanee Generating Station Expansion by Atura, the Boralex Lennox Battery Energy Storage Project, and the Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) project by EDF Renewables.

As previously reported, Council had a report on its agenda from Michael Nobes, General Manager of Growth & Expansion for the Town of Greater Napanee, recommending that Council “receive for information the Growth & Expansion – Atura Power Napanee Generating Station Natural Gas Turbine Expansion Request for Municipal Support Resolution report.” However, due to the length of the deputations, that report didn’t even make it to the table; it was put off, along with all but one other scheduled report, until Council’s next regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

Aside from the pros and cons of that project, citizens and other interested parties made deputations about the proposed Boralex Battery Energy Storage project purportedly to be located on privately owned land along Highway 33, the Loyalist Parkway.

Howard Hill, a resident who lives on Loyalist Parkway, presented the council with a petition signed by 30 neighbours living in the area who are opposed to the project, citing economic, environmental, and safety concerns.

The approximate location of the proposed site of the Boralex project along what Hill referred to as “the autobahn,” Highway 33. Google Maps image.

Hill said the location, in his mind, would not be a safe place for transport truck traffic, pointing to the size of the driveway and its proximity to a “blind corner” and the Glenora and Amherst Island ferries.

“In a perfect world,” he said, “everybody would do 80 kilometres an hour, which will allow them about four and a half seconds to stop. But this is ‘the autobahn,’ Highway 33… That will give you about three seconds of stopping time from the time you come around that corner if there was a truck in the oncoming lane to make that turn.” 

“This is big money,” Hill continued. “This is not a provincial thing. This is a privately owned company that’s still going to have to hook into the gas plant. They’re going to buy at a reduced price [and] sell at an inflated price, so it’s just for profit.”

Marnie Dawson, Manager of Greenfield Origination at Boralex, appeared on that company’s behalf to state that the company has “demonstrated our commitment to the township through our community vibrancy funds,” and that they have been “addressing concerns that have come out of our open house.”

Due to Hill’s concerns, she said Boralex was in contact with the Ministry of Transportation and “also would be working with our construction staff on what to do during that period, to ensure safety mechanisms are in place,” referring to the period of construction for the project.

Dawson also noted that Boralex was asking for a “useful resolution to support the project for rated criteria points, not for full approval of the project.”

The next deputations spoke to the Bethany battery storage facility proposed for County Road 9. Michael Stockfish said that while he spoke against the Bethany facility, “I understand the need for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) as part of the toolbox required to address the changing environment to generate and distribute electricity in the province of Ontario… it is our opinion that the site proposed for County Road 9 (Bethany) is not appropriate for such a facility and should not be supported by Town Council.”

Stockfish and others noted in particular their worry that the Town would not be ready for the complexities associated with responding to a lithium-ion battery fire should it occur on private property in a place as remote as Bethany.  

Bethany is the proposed site of a BESS owned by PEDF Renewables. Google Maps image.

Olivier St-Cyr spoke to this in his presentation. St-Cyr, who also lives on County Road 9, is an associate professor at the University of Toronto. He has expertise in Human Factors Engineering and the safety of industrial systems, has previously worked in the nuclear industry for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and Kinectrics, and has also worked on projects for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Bruce Power, and the Point Lepreau Generating Station in New Brunswick.

St-Cyr pointed out first that he was opposed to the project “not because it’s not a good technology, but because it’s not a suitable site with respect to its location.” He made a compelling argument for this by showing that BESS is prone to many failures that Napanee might not be equipped to handle, citing numerous fires and explosions listed in publicly-available data on battery energy storage failure events from around the world. 

He drew particular attention to a 2019 incident in Surprise, Arizona, where four career firefighters with specialized hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training were severely injured in an explosion at a lithium-ion BESS facility. The particulars of a lithium fire require specialized training.

“There’s a potential risk,” he pointed out. “First of all, the fire station… is about 12 to 15 minutes from town. Where is the constant water source that will be needed to put these fires out? And I hope the answer is not the Bay of Quinte. How can we ensure that the site is fully accessible in all weather conditions? And how do we assess the risk of the airborne contamination and soil contamination?”

The Town will have to wait for the answers to these and more questions until the next regular meeting of Council on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

As mentioned, these are only a few of the points that deputations brought before Council on Tuesday.  As always, you can view all the deputations yourself by watching the meeting on the Town’s YouTube channel and reading the reports on the Town’s Meetings and Agendas webpage.

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