District Energy plant shifts gears on expansion

A long-awaited expansion of the London District Energy plant in the core of the city is going ahead, but not on the site originally announced.

In 2016, Veresen — former owners of the co-generation plant — announced plans to construct a second building across the street from the original plant at Colborne and Bathurst Streets - writes lfpress.com

But Enwave, a Toronto-based company that bought the plant last year, has decided to shift gears and expand the existing building to the west, along vacant land adjacent to the CPR tracks.

“We have found some maintenance and operational inefficiencies in expanding the existing plant . . . and also staff won’t have to walk across the street,” said plant manager Sean Russell, noting the project will still cost about $40 million, as originally planned.

The key to the expansion project was a contract with Combined Heat and Power (CHP), a program operated by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.

Russell said that deal to generate17.9 megawatts of power was not affected by the recent changes to Ontario energy programs made by the new Ford government at Queen’s Park.

The co-generation plant burns natural gas and serves 60 customers with steam and chilled water and uses co-generation with an 180-megawatt capacity.

The plant’s clients include the St. Joseph Health Care complex on Grosvenor Street.

Russell said the expansion will improve reliability to the current customer base and allow for customer growth in the future.

Power produced by the plant flows in the provincial grid though a newly rebuilt transformer station on Nelson Street and will accommodate future residential growth downtown.

Russell said the revised expansion plan is still in the design phase and construction will likely begin this fall The site on the east side of Colborne was cleared at some effort, including the removal of a lot of trash and debris. That site is now paved over and will be used as a parking lot and a construction staging area.

Enwave is a unit of Brookfield, a large asset-management firm based in Toronto. It is best-known for operating a system that uses water at the bottom of Lake Ontario to cool downtown Toronto office buildings, along with the London plant.

The company also runs plants in Toronto, Windsor and such American cities as Chicago, Houston and Seattle.

London District Energy traces it roots to a central steam-heating plant built in downtown London beginning in 1878.

The company evolved into Cities Heating, run by the Hayman family.

Trigen took over in the 1980s and the old Queens Avenue plant was replaced in 1993 by the plant at Bathurst and Colborne.

In 2007, the plant was taken over by Fort Chicago, later Veresen Inc., a large, Calgary-based energy firm.

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