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$300-million battery storage project proposed near Sault Ste. Marie

Massive battery system would be installed alongside the Prince Wind Farm site
Timberwolf battery project
Possible location of Timberwolf Battery Energy Storage Project

Sault Ste. Marie city council expressed support on July 11 for a massive battery storage system planned by Evolugen, the Canadian operating business of Brookfield Renewable.

Remi Moreau, vice-president of external and government relations for the Gatineau, Que.-based company, attended a meeting of city council via video connection, accompanied by Simon Laroche, Evolugen's vice-president of trade and marketing, and James Reel, senior director of operations.

The $300-million project would be located on 10 acres alongside Evolugen’s existing Prince Wind Farm, about 15 kilometres outside Sault Ste. Marie.

Both Crown land and privately owned lands are under consideration.

Evolugen has 61 renewable power facilities across Canada, including 33 hydropower facilities, four wind farms and 24 solar sites.

The Prince proposal, referred to as Timberwolf Battery Energy Storage System, involves installing battery modules there and possibly a new substation.

It's designed as a response to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)'s call for additional storage capacity needed to meet increased demand, Moreau told councillors.

It's currently in the preliminary design and feasibility stage, but Evolugen needed a resolution demonstrating city council support before seeking approval from the IESO.

"It's a large project," Laroche said.

"This will be an innovative and low-carbon project that will consist of modular lithium-ion technology batteries with a capacity of 161 megawatts of installed capacity."

"That contains four hours of energy. So it's 644 megawatt-hours of energy."

Laroche said the largest projects in the world of this kind have about 300 to 400 megawatts of installed capacity.

Requests for proposals will be issued earlier next month, he said, with bids due Nov. 1.

Contracts will be awarded by Dec. 15.

"It's very short timelimes, driven by significant need by the IESO for additional capacity in the system, to be deployed and reach commercial operations by May 2025," Laroche told the meeting.

Additional requests for proposals will be made for further capacity the following year.

Laroche said most construction will take place during "the back half of 2023 but mostly in 2024."

The Timberwolf battery storage system will charge at night, mostly during off-peak hours, from the Prince Wind Farm and also from the provincial grid.

It will discharge that energy largely during peak times.

"We expect that the project will be doing this on a daily basis, producing about one cycle a day of charging and discharge."

"We hope that the project is successful and will help establish the Sault Ste. Marie region as a hub for renewable electricity," said Laroche.

"What we want to highlight here today is... that there aren't many projects of this scale in Canada currently."

"It's enabling use of excess renewable electricity, especially from wind at night, and placing it exactly where it counts the most, during the peaks."

The installation would include modular batteries, power equipment and possibly another substation, as well as some light-duty civil, safety and security infrastructure such as fencing and cameras.

"We're expecting that this type of project has a minimal impact on the environment and the community. So minimal impact on biodiversity. And little noise, too, at 85 decibels at 10 metres. So, lower noise impact than wind."

There also will be minimal impact on traffic, Laroche said.

"When the project is operational, no gas or odours emitted."

Ward 3 Coun. Donna Hillsinger, a mayoral candidate, asked about community consultations held by the company.

She was told by Remi Moreau that the meetings were not well attended, but no negative feedback was received.

A number of contractors indicated they were interested in working on the project, Moreau said.

"We had about six people giving positive feedback. They mostly wanted to partner with us."

"This would be Evolugen's first investment in batteries — right here in Sault Ste. Marie. Very exciting for us," he said.

Mayor Provenzano indicated that PUC is also favourable toward the battery project.

— SooToday