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Thunder Bay power plant site could have new owner by early 2021

Negotiations continue with potential buyer of shuttered lakefront generating station
Thunder Bay Generating Station 4
Thunder Bay Generating Station (Ontario Power Generation photo)

A new owner of the former Thunder Bay Generating Station could be in place by early 2021.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is continuing negotiations with an undisclosed purchaser with the aim of completing the transaction by next January.

In an email, OPG spokesperson Neal Kelly said that timeline is subject to change depending on negotiations go.

The 57-year-old coal and wood pellet-burning plant was permanently shut down in 2018 by OPG, citing the high cost of repairs and operations.

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Located on Mission Island where the mouth of the Kaministiquia River empties into Lake Superior, the 300-megawatt plant had been a coal burner for most of its operating life until the Ontario government converted it to burn specialty wood pellets, imported from Norway, and relegated it to a peaking plant in 2015.

It was sporadically fired up only during times of peak energy use, when additional power was needed on the provincial grid to meet demand.

How radically the use of the 53-hectare harbourfront property will change remains to be scene.

Kelly said OPG said the municipality and members of the community favoured repurposing the site.

"We have gone through an extensive process to identify potential candidates to purchase and redevelop the site."

Kelly said OPG worked with the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) for more than a year on the sale with the commission working directly with "several interested parties."

The buildings on the site will left standing and turned over to the buyer.

Should the purchaser plan to subdivide the property that would require City of Thunder Bay approval, he said.

"OPG will not have any say in how the property will be repurposed," said Kelly, "but is looking for the purchaser to maintain appropriate security to carry out its business plan."

Kelly said no sale price was listed for the property "because the property was marketed to different types of end users through a competitive bidding process."

OPG wants certain unspecified conditions to be met with the potential purchaser as part of the agreement of purchase and sale.

Meanwhile, decommissioning activities continue related to ash landfill, which is not on the site and is not part of the sale. OPG expects that process to be completed next year.

As to what site remediation is required, Kelly said OPG is awaiting a report back from an environmental site assessment.

Eric Zakrewski, CEO of the commission was not available for comment, but told Thunder Bay Newswatch in June that his organization gave its views to OPG as to what potential property uses would deliver the best economic and job creation benefits for the city.

His predecessor, Doug Murray, thought the plant's two massive boilers – capable of producing two million pounds of steam – could draw the attention of a manufacturer.

Brownfield redevelopment of Thunder Bay's historic industrial lands is an area of focus of the CEDC, particularly its waterfront area where there are a number of derelict grain elevators and overgrown vacant sites where forest products plants once stood.