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Sault councillors give cold shoulder to $300M Veldman battery proposal

It was the first time in eight years that a city council motion failed for lack of a mover and seconder
Proposed lithium-ion or flow battery project would be built on repurposed St. Marys Paper lands, adjacent to the Francis H. Clergue Hydroelectric Generating Station

A massive renewable energy proposal involving Justus, Paul and John Veldman failed Monday to get support from Sault Ste. Marie city council.

A motion to give city support to the $300-million battery storage installation on former St. Marys Paper lands failed after the mover and seconder asked to have their names removed from it, and no other councillors were willing to replace them.

Mayor Christian Provenzano commented that it was the first time in eight years that a council motion failed for lack of a mover and seconder.

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is soliciting proposals for energy projects.

BMI Group, headed by Justus, Paul and John Veldman, is one of three entities involved in pitching the Canal District proposal to the IESO.

The proponents are hoping the battery storage facility will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment of the historic neighbourhood.

A previous Veldman family initiative, Riversedge Developments, conceived and began the revitalization of the Canal District but was unable to complete the project, which was taken over by Tony Porco and SIS Group.

Riversedge also unsuccessfully attempted to redevelop the former Soo Falls/Northern Breweries site, although Paul Veldman told SooToday on Monday that architects have been retained on that project, and further news can be expected in weeks to come.

From the beginning of Tuesday's city council meeting, Ward 3 councillor and mayoral candidate Matthew Shoemaker wanted nothing to do with the Veldmans' Canal District proposal, indicating he had serious concerns about the condition of buildings on Veldman-controlled lands there.

Paul Veldman told Tuesday's meeting that those problems are being addressed.

"They [the IESO] are particularly focussed on projects that can be online by 2025 or 2026," said Tom May from BioVeld Energy Ventures, which is also involved in the Canal District initiative.

"This project can do that," May said.

"The IESO has identified pre-critical needs, some particularly in the northeast area with the additional expansion of mining and other loads in the northeast."

"The facility would draw power from the grid during low-demand periods and return the power to the grid during high-demand periods when supply is tight, and also to provide enhanced security to the grid in the Sault Ste. Marie area, benefiting both Sault Ste. Marie PUC and Ontario Hydro."

Tuesday's setback in no way means the Canal District proposal is dead.

— SooToday