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Energy storage plant launches in Sault Ste. Marie

The pilot project is designed to store energy and release it during peak electricity use.

Convergent Energy + Power officials, joined by Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano, cut the ribbon on the company’s new energy storage facility in the city’s east end on July 19.

The facility, located on PUC property beside one of the utility’s substations at 915 McNabb Street, is a seven-megawatt battery pilot project, designed to efficiently store energy and release it to Ontario’s grid during times of peak electricity use, or during an electricity shortage.

To put the energy storage facility’s capacity into perspective, seven megawatts is the equivalent of 70,000 light bulbs.

The project is overseen by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which will pay Convergent to store and supply power.

“This is the first in a series of projects the IESO is administering,” announced Johannes Rittershausen, Convergent's CEO.

“We see energy resources such as this as being complementary to our grid needs…it’s a very exciting time for Convergent, the IESO and the people of Ontario as we inch closer to bringing this asset online,” said the IESO’s Nicholas Ingman.

Because the project is located on PUC property, Convergent has a 10-year lease in effect with the utility company, and an option to extend that to a 20-year lease.

“We need to make this city a city people come to and do business in,” Provenzano said, welcoming Convergent and thanking the PUC for its role, as well as several firms who took part in constructing the facility.

“Sault Ste. Marie is an incubator for emerging energy grid technologies. Innovative energy storage projects like this one will ultimately allow for a more reliable, stable energy grid,” said Claudio Stefano, PUC's vice-president of operations and engineering.

Frank Genova, Convergent's chief operating officer, told reporters the company expects the facility to be officially operational by mid-August.

Construction on the complex began in December.

Convergent officials did not disclose how much it cost to build the facility, neither how much IESO is paying Convergent to run it.

Convergent Energy + Power is headquartered in New York, with an office in Toronto.

Convergent officials said the energy storage project includes state-of-the-art safety systems, such as fire extinguishers that give off an inert gas, preventing a fire from spreading.

“There is some pretty nifty control equipment that’s constantly monitoring everything that’s going on in here,” said Robin Gray, Convergent's vice-president of operations, speaking to reporters on a tour of the facility’s interior.

The equipment can tell if there are any problems with any one of the facility’s 2,100 battery packs. 

“It’s very maintainable,” Gray said.

The facility was built with engineering and construction support from the PUC, General Electric, Whitby Hydro, S&T Group, JB Excavators, SalDan Construction, STEM Engineering Group, WSP, and N-Sci Technologies.