Over some time there have been conflicting stories about the purpose of a backup power generation unit at the Mount Dennis maintenance facility on the Crosstown project. I have heard some rather wild statements from folks at Metrolinx that suggests they might be making things up based overheard water cooler chatter (not that offices tend to have water coolers these days, but it’s the idea that counts).
After the media scrum at last week’s board meeting produced more confusion, I sent in a set of questions for clarification. The boffins at Metrolinx are supposedly working on it. Yes, you. I know you read this site, so in case the memo hasn’t reached your desk, you might want to answer the following:
Regarding the backup generator at Mount Dennis:
I have heard stories both that its purpose is for on site emergency power and for traction power to the main line.
Another variant is that less than full power would be provided in an emergency at least to clear trains from tunnels.
It does not make sense to have one huge generator capable of providing traction power to the entire route. At a minimum, a parallel distribution system would be needed to connect to the standard substation-based feeds along the line.
Also, emergency power requirements are different for traction (750 VDC) and station power (110/220 VAC). Do you really expect me to believe you plan a totally independent power distribution network from Hydro?
Another cockeyed variant is to use the generator to offset peak power demands.
Please provide a detailed technical description of what this generator is expected to power and under what circumstances so that there is a single explanation of this project from Metrolinx.
I await a reply from Metrolinx that is coherent and credible.
Updated September 20, 2016 at 10:40 pm:
Metrolinx has provided the following information about their power generation proposal for Mount Dennis:
Metrolinx is working with Toronto Hydro to explore an alternative to the proposed natural gas powered back up facility near Mount Dennis Station. An alternative would have to provide the same basic functional requirements as the proposed natural gas powered facility. It would also be subject to any necessary approvals from the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. More info is coming in the near future I understand.
The gas-powered facility was proposed in order to provide the ability to maintain service when the power goes out and improve transit resilience, lower the cost of power by eliminating any contribution to peak power demand from the new system, and ensuring it does not contribute to the need for more transmission or generation infrastructure.
The proposal included:
- a traditional Toronto Hydro electrical grid connection at two locations; and,
- building an 18 Megawatt backup power facility – six generators – (with capacity to heat the MSF office spaces) in the northwest corner of the MSF site, known as the backup power facility.
CTS [the consortium building the Crosstown line] developed this proposal based on our RFP requirements whereby proponents were asked to design a system to achieve the power needs of the project, which included redundancy. The Energy Matters regime of the Project Agreement drove proponents to make the system as energy efficient as possible and to the extent possible limit peaks during the key hours of peak that challenge the grid. CTS is asked to forecast the following power supply needs for the system and commit to them for the 30-year Maintenance Period,
- a) Discrete Power Use: the total amount of power needed;
- b) Transmission Peak Use: the peak amount of power needed at any point in time (i.e. during rush hour); and
- c) Global Adjustment Peak Use: the peak amount of power needed during the time when Toronto Hydro’s network is a peak capacity.
Each of the above peaks were assigned a $/MW or $/MW-h to determine the overall power costs of the project (that was unique to that proponent’s proposal). This cost was part of the proponents’ bid for the purposes of the financial evaluation. This regime exists to make bidders responsible for energy efficiency of their LRT system because Metrolinx will pay the energy bills for the 30 year Maintenance Period.
The proposal from CTS to responded with a fully capable 18MW power facility with the ability to completely eliminate contribution to peak period on the grid. As a result of the proposal, CTS was able to reduce their evaluation costs for the Global Adjustment Peak Use and their Transmission Peak Use.
The final power supply scenario provided for both a traditional connection to the Toronto Hydro network as well as the self-generating power facility. CTS’ obligations were to provide the power supply and HMQE’s obligations were to determine which power supply to use, i.e., either the backup power facility or the connection to the Toronto Hydro network. There are rules associated with changing of the power supply. CTS also committed to making one of the power generation units a co-generating unit (produces power and captures heat by-product). [Email from Anne Marie Aikins, Senior Manager, Media Relations, Communications & Public Affairs, Metrolinx]
This description begs a few questions:
- If Toronto Hydro’s capacity is strained, how are we powering new facilities such as the TYSSE and proposed SSE? Does the TTC have to design for an alternative, power self-generation and transmission capability?
- How does this claim square with statements made during the GO Transit electrification study that at the provincial level, spare power for RER was not an issue at all?
- What additional capacity will be required to power the extensions to Pearson Airport and UTSC, and can this reasonably be sited at one location, Mount Dennis?
Updated September 22, 2016 at 8:20 am:
The acronym used above “HMQE” refers to “Her Majesty the Queen’s Entity”, a short form for the combined Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario Entity.
The primary purpose of the generator is supposedly for “Bulk Power Disruptions”, that is to say an outage from the provincial supplier, Hydro One. There have only been three such outages since (and including) the major blackout of August 2003. However, other explanations for the generation capacity emerge from time to time.
Crosslinx Transit Solutions (Crosslinks), the winning proponent, proposed an 18MW (six 3 MW engines) natural gas fired power plant to achieve 40% reduction in life-cycle electricity costs, as well as, provide backup power to protect against Hydro One electricity transmission failure (e.g. June 2013 flood at Hydro One Manby Station left 300,000 people without power for days in west Toronto and east Mississauga). Back-up power is required to ensure that LRT trains can be removed from tunnels, and provide emergency ventilation in the event of a power failure. [From the city’s report Update on Metrolinx Proposed Power Plant for Eglinton LRT, p. 3]
In other words the primary function is to reduce electricity costs rather than simply having backup power. There is no business case to show how generating their own electricity would be cheaper for this line than direct purchase from a utility.
Toronto Hydro requires additional distribution capacity for the Crosstown line and will have implemented this by the time it opens. However, this will not, according to Metrolinx, be in place soon enough to allow early testing. That statement does not explain just how much power testing would require as opposed to full operation of the line, nor whether Toronto Hydro is already capable of providing power for the testing phase.
The City’s report also speaks of heat recovery for use on site and by nearby developments. This would only make sense if the generators were operating fairly regularly, not as occasional backup units.
GO Transit’s RER power feeds will come directly from Hydro One and they will not be constrained by local transmission capacity.
Metrolinx has yet to comment on power for the Crosstown extensions, but they have confirmed that the Finch LRT will not include a comparable power facility in its design.
This entire scheme is looking more and more like a noble idea gone wrong. The specifications for this facility are in a section of the Crosslink project contract (“Output Specifications”, Schedule 15) that is completely redacted from the public version. It is intriguing that the contract contemplates the possibility that the cogeneration facility might be dropped from the project (section 20.18).
I’ve seen the newspaper articles about the generator at Mount Dennis and seen the conflicting stories about how it’s to be used as a backup only or to shave off peak power consumption or be able to power the whole line at peak times (Do the latter two scenarios indicate that Metrolinx agrees that Ontario’s electricity prices are too high?) while being unclear about exactly how it’s intended to be used.
I can clarify one thing about the use cases: Although different, it doesn’t matter whether it’s to provide emergency 120/240 volt AC power, some traction power, or be able to carry the entire line, just due to the distances involved, some kind of high voltage distribution system is going to have to be built and some kind of step down power conversion will have to be provided at multiple points along the line because nobody’s going to push 120/240 volt AC power or 750 volt DC power from a generator near Eglinton and Black Creek Dr. all the way across to Scarborough.
Most likely what they’d do is one or two variations of having a high voltage transmission buss along the line that can be fed from the generator at Mt. Dennis and several Hydro feed points along the line, and have that feed step down transformers for producing 120/240 volt AC or the input side of traction power substation transformers, or have the high voltage buss feed the switch gear of whatever equipment they want to be able to power from Mt. Dennis and be able to switch between that buss and the local incoming hydro feed. London Underground pretty much did the same thing with the entire core part of network when they decided to stop generating their own power at Lott’s Rd. and buy it from National Grid instead. A small number of feed points from National Grid into London Underground’s existing high voltage distribution system that provides traction, signal, and domestic power, plus an emergency feed from an updated tramways power plant that runs on natural gas.
And yet the existing subway system has managed to work all these years without a backup generator.
Steve: The TTC has battery power for lighting. Considering that they are Toronto Hydro’s biggest customer, the size and number of generators needed to power the TTC would be immense.
Both “coherent and credible” from Metrolix? That could be a first.
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Doesn’t the TTC already have a city-wide 600VDC distribution system for the subway and streetcars allowing them to keep operating even with localized power failures?
I guess, like the rail gauge, they have to use a slightly different standard just to appease some non-bidder on the streetcar contract.
Steve: No they do not. There are substations all over the city for various sections of the subway and streetcar networks, and they get their power from Toronto Hydro. If a local feed goes down, so does that section of the network. There has been talk of bridging switchgear to allow a neighbouring station to take over a section, but that’s a big, long term project and is not yet part of the budget.
Are they drawing (electrical) subway lines (from backup generators) on napkins at Metrolinx now too? Seems like each person is using a different colour too. An instance of a provincial agency following the (bad) recent example of Toronto City Councillors for rapid transit routes?…
There is one more possibility. Simply put, how much revenue would Metrolinx get if they sold the generator’s power output?
A couple of comments:
1) There will be little or no 120/240 volts. That is single phase and a major operation like this will use 3 phase; either 120/208 V or more likely 347/600 V 3 phase for heavy machinery, pumps, fans etc with step down to 120/240 for small items that require that voltage.
2) The distribution voltage to feed the traction and other transformers is probably at 27.6 kV but some parts of the old city use 13.8 kV, at least they used to.
3) Attempting to supply enough power to run the entire system from the end of the line would be very difficult because of the power demand and voltage drop. It would be more practical to provide power to different section sequentially to move trains to stations for evacuation but this has never been a problem on the regular subway.
4) I think that the province has a gas fired generator or two that they are trying to find a use for so Metrolinx gets stuck with it/them.
Steve, you are making a mountain out of a mole. The generator is for emergency power to run the LRT in case of outage.
Steve: Actually, that does not match what has been said on occasion. And emergency power to run cars at low speed out of tunnels to stations (which themselves need power) is very different from actually operating the line. Metrolinx seems to be confused about just what “emergency power” will accomplish and that is my beef. Because in turn this triggers a lot of local outrage about the size and purpose of the generator, it is a legitimate question.
The fact that Metrolinx has not been able or willing to answer what you paint as simple query speaks volumes.
The generator will be used to get rid of the massive amount of B.S. that has been piling up for years as a result of “explanations” provided by both the TTC management regarding various unresolved issues to date – e.g., “bad traffic” for bad line management – and by our City Councillors/elected officials/Board members/staff who believe that the TTC is just a money pit that could easily become a cash cow “if only” … [fill in current trope associated with how money is constantly wasted – although the stingy city fathers/mothers won’t lift a pen to sign the cheques for adequate funding for the billion-dollar system’s budget.]
Plus, if it’s a cow, there will be even more “fuel” to make sure the generator is put to good use and not seen as a frivolous expense by the TTC (present company perhaps excluded!)
Steve: Of course, it’s a Metrolinx project, and so your irony should really be directed at Queen’s Park.
Steve says: “Of course, it’s a Metrolinx project, and so your irony should really be directed at Queen’s Park.”
Point taken. I don’t know if I have enough irony to direct to the provincial government regarding recent transit cock-ups – I might end up becoming irony-deficient!
Thanks to those who provided a reminder that there are complications about transmitting electrical power over a distance.
I’ll note that the accounts I have read said the generator is planned to be rated at 16 megawatts. Is that about as much power as all the locomotives for one of those freight trains pulling more that one hundred freight cars? If so would that really be enough energy to power 162 LRVs? Freight trains aren’t accelerating and decelerating every couple of hundred meters.
I don’t know what 3 phase power is — it is a form of alternating current, correct? Our streetcars and subways are powered by direct current, aren’t they?
My building replaced much of our elevator infrastructure a couple of years ago. Our elevator room had always been very hot, and noisy, and now is both a lot cooler and a lot less noisy. I didn’t know that the motors for our previous elevator required direct current, so our previous system had an AC motor that ran, 24×7 spinning up a DC generator, to provide the DC power for the elevators. No wonder the room was a sauna. Our new motors use alternating current.
If our transit vehicles use direct current, why was it preferred? Is it merely a historical justification? I’ve read that there are a couple of systems, in France, that don’t use an overhead caternary power wire, rather the power is picked up from contacts on the surface of the street — but there is no danger of electrocuting pedestrians, because clever sensors and clever switches only energize the power strips when they sense a transit vehicle overhead. Is that more complicated than running a transit vehicle on alternating current?
Steve: Three phase power is AC, but not the same as what comes out of your wall socket which is a single phase. There are technical advantages to this which I won’t go into here. You can read about in on Wikipedia.
Transit vehicles run on DC because it can be fed to them via a single contact (wire or third rail), but modern vehicles use AC motors as these are technically much simpler and reliable than DC. The AC is synthesized onboard, something that was not possible over a century ago when streetcars and subways were in their infancy. By contrast, electric railways have power transmitted in high voltage AC. This technology is neither practical nor necessary for street railways and subways.
Power in the guideway is provided by switching systems that turn sections on and off as needed. Again, this is a technology that was not practical until comparatively recently, but there are competing schemes that use inductive power transfer rather than a physical contact. Moreover, the rise of energy storage systems (typically batteries) make it possible to charge up a vehicle at a stations and then run without any external power supply for a short distance. This is a less efficient way to power vehicles, but is useful in heritage areas where overhead wiring is out of character with the surroundings.
The historical reason is that series wound DC motors have very high starting torque while AC squirrel cage motors have very low torque except when they are operating just below the electrical frequency. Series motors can be run on AC but their efficiency drops off rapidly as the frequency increases. That is why Ontario hydro was using 25Hz until the 50s, to power a never built system of electric trains.
With the advent of modern semi conductors it is possible to build AC variable frequency high power motor controllers called inverters. AC motors are about 1/3 the weight of DC motors and operate cooler. They are also less likely to break adhesion and start spinning the wheels which causes rail and wheel burn.
Your building must be very old if it were still using a rotary converter for its elevators. Solid state rectifiers have been around for a long time and are much cheaper to operate.
Power has three main qualifications: phase, voltage, and frequency. If you picture a sinusoidal wave, voltage tells you how high the peak and valley go; frequency tells you how fast the peak and valley pass; and, phase tells you where/when the peak and valley occur.
As for “clever sensors and clever switches only energize the power strips when they sense a transit vehicle overhead”, it’s just a matter of using the vehicle to complete the circuit. Much like your toy train set when you were a child (everyone had one, right? and just when a child, right?)
Metrolinx is transitioning to 347/600V 3ø (that’s the symbol for phase) as a source, but they have a bunch of legacy devices that are 120/240 1ø, such as CCTV cameras. There is a huge push to “build for the future”. I am very surprised that its gas-generated, as certain individuals at Metrolinx are fond of informing whoever will listen that in an emergency Enbridge et al. won’t guarantee more than 3-hours supply. Are they also building a huge storage tank?
Strangely enough, it actually makes economic sense for a facility like this to have a backup generator that can sell power back to the grid at peak times. The plant at Pearson Airport apparently pays for all its operating and maintenance costs by doing this. However, in order for that plant to actually be a reliable backup it has to be tested at full load at least one day a week. IE: for at least 52 days per year, the entire airport is run for real off the backup power plant. The breezy claim from Metrolinx that the plant will only be run a few hours a year is bunk. How can they be sure that the generator will start up if they don’t test it regularly?
I don’t disagree that backup generation is a good idea for such a systemically important piece of infrastructure, but Metrolinx needs to be honest with the community. Maybe try selling the benefits of this plant instead of dismissing the legitimate concerns and lying about how often the thing will be running.
The electrical distribution system that such a plant would require to power the entire line would be a pretty large project alone. If they are normally powering the entire line from the west end anyway (which seems crazy), then they would have already planned for building that distribution system, and the addition of the power plant wouldn’t be such a big additional cost. But building such a system for backup alone would be ridiculously expensive.
The Metrolinx generator testing policy is one hour per month plus a four-hour annual test.
I wonder how resilient the electrical supply is, and will be in the future, given the seemingly uncontrolled approval of condos and office space. It might work today, but can it keep up?
Perhaps the writing is on the wall that generators, capable of supplying power well beyond emergency uses, is a political safeguard.
Do we in fact know much about Toronto Hydro’s future demand projections and their plans to meet that demand?
Her Majesty’s Queens Engineers? Seems a bit esoteric.
Steve: It turns out that “HMQE” stands for “Her Majesty the Queen’s Entities” (or “Entity” in the singular), a term used in the master contract to describe government agencies. In this specific case, it is the partnership between Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx.
The short answer is no, but it is about as much power needed for TWO of those trains.
How much power the train will need depends on how heavy the train is, how fast it is expected to move, and what the ruling grade on the run is. A typical freight train weighs just over one ton per foot of length (I get this from reading quite a few TSB reports on accidents and discovered that the tonnage is often very close to the length). How much horsepower is available per locomotive will determine how many of them are needed for the train. Over the years, road freight locomotives were typically in the 3000 to 4000 hp range. Every once in awhile there are new models in the 6000 to 7000 hp range, with the thinking that this is accomplished with fewer cylinders and other maintenance-requiring hardware. In reality, if a large train needed 12,000 hp, then one of these units represents half the pulling power and if it fails on route, the whole train can easily be stranded. A train being pulled by four of the 3000-4000 hp units can continue at a slower speed when one unit fails.
So, assuming a train needed 12,000 hp, this translates to 8,948,400 watts.
In general, power availability in Ontario isn’t really a problem. Generating capacity is up and consumption is down. The issue is getting it where it needs to be. For example, Hydro One wanted to replace the transmission line that runs kind of in between the belt line and Eglinton W. with taller towers and increase the voltage of that line to get a capacity increase but there was community opposition to it and I’m not sure what eventually became of that proposal. Another example, condo developers downtown were paying huge construction costs to run cables to connect new buildings to distant substations that had available capacity because some nearby ones were close to their limits and that’s why Toronto Hydro’s building that new substation next to the roundhouse. Railfans are probably familiar with that one because Toronto Hydro originally wanted to build the substation inside the roundhouse and kick the museum out.
So, the York University subway shouldn’t be a problem since it’s in a different geographic area. The top end isn’t even located in Toronto and isn’t subject to Toronto Hydro’s distribution system. The Scarborough extension’s located geographically differently as well. RER, for the most part, is located outside of the city of Toronto and the long document I read a while ago on that electrification plan called for several large transformer stations to be connected directly to Hydro One’s high voltage transmission system, so not involving any local distribution companies like Toronto Hydro at all.
Does Metrolinx need to be able to generate enough power to run full rush hour service on the Eglinton LRT? No. Is it desirable to do so? That’s the question that needs to be evaluated and answered. Is some varying amount utility construction necessary to connect any new large load to the electricity grid? Typically, yes. There’s nothing exciting or exotic or unusual about this just because we’re discussing a light rail line or subway extensions instead of a large factory, like say, a big Kodak manufacturing facility. On the other hand, demolishing something like a big Kodak manufacturing facility would free up electricity supply capacity. Where might something like that have happened?
Steve: Just FYI, when I worked at Scarborough City Hall (2000-2008), there were issues with the power feed because Scarborough Hydro (pre-amalgamation) went a bit light on infrastructure, and some of the supposedly redundant circuits were repurposed for primary service.
Yes, RER will be fed by Hydro One, but one might ask why that’s not happening for other Metrolinx projects if Toronto Hydro does not have capacity.
As for Kodak, of course that site has not been an active manufacturing location for decades.
The projection for long-term electricity demand growth is effectively flat: demand growth is expected to be offset by conservation savings.
Requirements for additional supply are generally not expected to emerge until at least the mid-to-late 2020s.
Ontario Planning Outlook
Since Greenwood shops is on an old garbage dump and since garbage dumps produce methane perhaps the TTC should put up a gas fired generator there to run the subway in case of a power outage. Shouldn’t require that big of one.
I thought that a few years ago there was a local power outage that affected the power in a station but not the traction power and the TTC did not stop there because the lighting levels were too low.
I could hear the sound of Robert’s tongue pressing into his cheek as I read this, but for anyone who didn’t, I seem to recall that the garbage was removed prior to the construction of the yard. Even if it hadn’t, after 50 years I suspect that a significant, track-bed affecting, settling of the ground would have occurred and the rate of methane still produced would not power much more than a few bunsen burners. 🙂
Actually, if you read the parts not redacted, there is the provision that they will sell all their excess capacity. If the price of natural gas is around $0.04/kWh and energy rates are $0.18/kWh peak and $0.087/kWh off-peak, you get a blended margin of $0.08/kWh. If the fixed O&M costs are $13.17/kWyr and capital costs are $917/kW, so that’s 162 hours per year to pay for O&M and 11,252 hours to a return on investment (5 years operating 6.3 hours per day).
Steve: Which begs the question of why we are building a power generation plant as part of a transit project if it’s such a profitable bargain. This is especially true when it is one government agency benefiting from the high prices paid by another government agency for power.
My reading is that they are there for use occasionally as backup units, but that they would be used as needed to supplement peak grid demand (just like the other gas plants around the province).
The worst part about natural gas back-up power is that the natural gas line pumps run on electricity from the grid. Thus, in a prolonged black-out/brown-out, you only are getting the capacity within the pipeline.
Steve: I wonder whether Metrolinx has considered this particular failure mode.
@ Calvin Henry-Cotnam
Most of the freights through Brampton are pulled by 2 locomotives at 4400 hp each for 8800 hp or about 6600 kW, 1hp =0.7457 kW or 6.6 MW so it could power about 3 trains.
Most of the Flexity trams have 4 120 kW motors, centre truck is unpowered except on the TTC. That is 480 kw per tram. I believe that the order for Eglinton is for about 90 trams which would use about 430 MW if all cars started together which will not happen as there will be between 10 and 15% as spares, cars will start and stop at different times and cars that are stopping will generate power and if it came down to the fact that the only power available was from the turbines they could use the signal system to control how many trains started at once so it would provide enough capacity.
I don’t know if they still do this but there used to be a peak consumption rate as well as an actual power consumed rate charged to industrial consumers. By using the generator to cut down on the peak power usage it would probably be cost effective.
Some more points as I think of them:
– 25 Hz as an early standard existed for a number of reasons and only a few involved electric trains. At the time, 25 Hz was more useful for many large industrial customers than 60 Hz, and the last 25 Hz customers got converted only a few years ago. None of them operated trains.
– Motor generator sets hung on for a long time in elevator equipment because these frequently used Ward-Leonard control systems of which the MG set was one of the a crucial parts. Most of the heat getting thrown off in these systems was from the rheostats in the controllers which dissipated a lot of power. Going to solid state electronics and operating semiconductors in switch mode seriously curtails heat production whether you’re driving an AC or DC motor.
– Westinghouse once proposed replacing 600 VDC streetcar electrification with a 480 volt single phase AC system but there was total disinterest in the industry. Apart from breaking equipment compatibility, there’d be a nasty reduction of the ability to deliver power to a load between the reduced RMS voltage compared to flat 600 V or so direct current. Then you get uneven phase to phase loading which isn’t a problem with a DC system since phase to phase loading is pretty well balanced by the three phase rectification process that creates the DC on the output side of every DC traction power substation.
– Kodak made photographic paper at Mt. Dennis into the early 2000s. In any event, the power service to the site would have been designed around their peak consumption at full operation, whenever that occurred. I don’t know if the capacity freed up by them slowly winding down manufacturing there over the years was used elsewhere nearby. I doubt it since many industries in the area closed up shop and it’s not like giant condo towers sprung up in the area that would have the residential density to suck up that much electricity usage in place of the factories. The point I was trying to make was that the carhouse for the Eglinton line really represents replacement of one large energy intensive industry with another which should be somewhat easier to power than putting it in a new location where all infrastructure including electric would have to be built new from scratch.
Metrolinx is engaging in quite a game of sleight of hand regarding the purpose of the generators.
If the idea is true emergency power, to provide station lighting and enough power to get trains to the nearest station in the event that Toronto Hydro’s whole grid went down (or at least went down in all the locations that interconnect with the Crosstown’s power supply?) then yeah 18MW might do it, but I guess the question is how necessary is that really? I can think of exactly one incidence in living memory where the whole grid was lost. I’m not an electrical engineer, but I would wager that in order for all the TH distribution networks from Black Creek to Kennedy to go down at once, it would essentially mean that HydroOne’s transmission grid was fully down too. If you have an outage of a few hours you evacuate your tunnels manually, like subways have been planning/doing for a hundred years, if the outage is longer than that than their are some bigger issues going on, and anyways, designing for this scenario seems like overkill.
ML has also seemed to be hinting that the their generator would keep the line fully operational in the event that Toronto Hydro lost a piece of its grid for a medium-term period (a few hours to a few days, like it did in the West End a couple years back). Bluntly put, I doubt it, 18MW is not near enough to supply full tractive power to even a part of the line.
Which brings us to door number three, which is offsetting energy costs. While I don’t doubt that this is feasible (a 40% decrease in energy costs seems on the high-side, but let’s call it some kind of accounting voodoo and agree that *some* savings do exist here), I’m not sure that’s a road that Queen’s Park wants to start going down. Essentially, this is using a transit project to back-door a generating facility into the middle of a load centre, when it would never otherwise be approved or even considered. You would think that this government, in particular, would be a little bit sensitive to the optics of how you locate gas plants…
No one is generating with natural gas at 4 cents per kwh. A big CCGT, and some optimistic projections of gas prices, can maybe get you to 0.07-0.08 $/kwh, but that’s with a utility scale plant (think 200MW plus), not the 18MW Metrolinx is floating. And those levelized costs are assuming some mix of baseload and load-following generation, essentially running at some level or another 24/7, not as sporadic backup. Admittedly, the economics start to look different if you can write off some portion of the CapEx as reliability/emergency power, and having a generator located right on top of a major load centre (ie in the middle of Toronto) has substantial benefits, but those numbers still seem wildly low.
All of that was just a back of the envelope calculation for comparison purposes. It’d not reasonable to expect the generator to run every day throughout the year either. Adjust as you like, and the return period is worthwhile or not.
Steve: And this brings us full circle to the objections of the folks in Mount Dennis who may discover that what was supposed to be a power plant for emergencies only (and is described that way by Metrolinx), may run much more frequently. The whole point of this discussion is that Metrolinx cannot get it’s story straight (that’s the kind way, to think of them as bumblers), or that they are lying through their teeth.
I cannot help having the idea that this was a scheme, like so many “new energy” plans, that got out of control.
A little late to the game here, but with regard to the comments about the economics of Metrolinx selling surplus electricity to the grid and comparisons to the Pearson facility: this is definitely a real and lucrative possibility (and motivator) – not at the market price that a few have noted, but definitely feasible if the provincial government/IESO were to award a contract (i.e. subsidy) to the electricity generated by the Metrolinx facility. This is how the Pearson facility is able to make money – by virtue of the 2005 contract it has with the IESO that pays it guaranteed rates regardless of how low the market price may be. And one branch of government subsidizing the power production of another wouldn’t at all be out of character here in Ontario: tons of smaller FIT contracts were awarded to school boards, municipalities, and the municipal utilities… through an actual provincial agency benefiting from those ratepayer-subsidized contracts while simultaneously sidestepping the ever more costly provincial grid would probably be a new development (or dare I say a new low).
Another late update (does anybody read them?), but I was amused to see that on Oct 16th SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. was fined $75k by the OEB for operating an unlicensed gas-fired generating plant at Pearson. Presumably this is the very same plant mentioned in the previous comment. Well, just more politics, etc. etc.
I don’t know how long the link will last before going behind the G&M paywall.
The official OEB files, almost entirely free of context.