Controversial St. Clair gas plant ready to produce power

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After years of work and lots of scandals, the Greenfield South Energy project is ready to produce power for Ontario. But the energy isn’t flowing yet.

That from officials from the Independent Electricity System Operator.

Chuck Farmer, director of stakeholder and public affairs with the IESO, says the gas-fired power plant  in St. Clair Township “met all the technical requirements” Monday to begin producing power for the province. Although the company still has to meet “many terms” of the contract before the IESO considers it commercially viable.

The Greenfield South unit was supposed to go on line six months ago.

But delays are not uncommon for this power plant. The provincial government originally gave Eastern Power approval to build the plant in Mississauga. When that wasn’t palatable to voters, the project was cancelled and then later moved to Oil Springs Line in St. Clair Township.

Ontario’s auditor general says the cancellation of the project cost taxpayers $255 million.

Once the project was relocated, it was plagued with labour problems. The Ministry of Labour, at one count, had issued over 70 work orders for unsafe conditions at the plant. In August 2015, trades workers walked off the job to bring the situation to light.

The company is facing five charges under the Ontario Labour Act. They will be heard during a five-day trial which starts in Sarnia court the first week of April.

Ministry of Labour officials say all of the other outstanding stop work orders were cleared up by September.

Meantime, Farmer wasn’t clear exactly when the Greenfield South project would sell power onto the grid.

The province’s gas-powered plants are meant to be backup for peak demand or when other major power producers are off line for repairs.

Greenfield South comes on line just as one of the units at the Darlington Nuclear facility will go off line for repairs. “Having the Greenfield South plant ready will help”, says Farmer.

“The picture looks quite good for being able to reliably meet the demands of the province,” says Farmer. “Greenfield South is registered on the market; they’ve proven they can technically produce power.”

But Farmer adds the contract to operate the plant has “many terms that have to be adhered to” including financial terms, and he’s not sure when that might happen.

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