Orillia, Moving Toward Being Powerful

By Fred Larsen – Special to SUNonline/Orillia

We are living in an exciting time. Clean, healthy, non-polluting, non-emission electricity generation is a reality. All we need now is the determination to make the changes required to create this new sustainable world.

Several months’ work and research by Sustainable Orillia’s  Energy and Infrastructure Sector group resulted in a presentation and report by Sustainable Orillia president, Stan Mathewson, to Orillia City Council at the September 11 council meeting.

TitledClosing the Gap: Strategies to Facilitate Big Move #1, the report was put together by SO’s group over the spring and summer of 2023 and provides City council and staff with a basis for selection criteria as they determine the future of Orillia’s energy security in a climate change constrained environment.

More than a year ago, Orillia’s council adopted an ambitious climate change action plan, called Orillia’s Climate Future. There are three major components outlined in the plan, each referred to as a Big Move. Big Move #1 focuses on local renewable energy, Big Move #2, on transportation, and Big Move #3, on buildings. Between the three big moves—and all of them really are big, complicated, challenging moves for the Orillia city government and community to make—the commitment is to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels and the carbon emissions they produce, resulting in a clean energy, zero-emission city and community by 2050.

Energy generation, its use, distribution and conservation will be a key component to achieving this goal and is therefore, Big Move #1. A non-fossil fuel economy will require significantly more electricity generation; we’ll be charging our electric cars, trucks and machinery, using electricity in our homes for cooking, and heating with heat pumps powered by electricity. The SO report estimates that, by 2050, Orillia will need to produce an additional 62 MW of green electricity to offset residual carbon emissions from its other sources of electrical generation.

Orillia Power Generation’s Matthias Station

One megawatt (MW) equals one million watts or 1,000 kilowatts, roughly enough electricity for the instantaneous demand of 750 homes at once. Electricity is considered green when it is generated from emission-free sources like solar panels, wind, hydro installations or nuclear. (Note: gas plants are not green”)

Orillia Power Generation Corporation currently produces about 23 MW annually from its hydro and solar sites. It is clear that replacing fossil fuel generation therefore poses a significant challenge, a challenge that will likely require one or more community energy corporations—and individuals and businesses, as well—all working to generate renewable electrical power.

Orillia’s ability to generate its own renewable energy is important to ensuring our energy security – that is, keeping the lights on.  Currently Ontario’s power grid depends on major sources like the hydro power of Niagara or the nuclear power from its Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generation stations. Power from those sources travels large distances across Ontario through our electricity grids. In doing so, there is a substantial loss of energy through the transmission lines and greater risk of interruption.  

As we saw in the ice storm of January 1998, transmission lines are vulnerable to severe weather. The ’98 ice storm toppled 24,000 poles and 900 steel towers forcing the replacement of 3,000 kilometres of line. With more severe weather in the forecast (and being experienced) the risk of power outages is higher than ever before. Developing local renewable sources of electricity puts the generation of electricity closer to where the electricity is being used, reducing such risks. Local generation will likely be a feature of future electrical systems across the planet.

The SO report outlines the many renewable and non-emitting technologies that could play a role in providing this additional energy. Some are more complex than others. The report provides an overall synopsis of the energy technologies that its authors believe will be most relevant for the City, when they review, consider and decide upon options under Big Move #1. Finally, the Report provides recommendations on all of the technologies referenced in the report.

Part 2 of this summary of the Sustainable Orillia Report to City council will look at the green alternatives that are available.

(Images Supplied) Main: Orillia Power Generation’s Swift Rapids Station


Support Independent Journalism