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Detail of the proposed site. Courtesy: Atura Power.

Trent Gets City's Go-Ahead for Energy Storage System Application

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
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November 28, 2023
Trent Gets City's Go-Ahead for Energy Storage System Application
Detail of the proposed site. Courtesy: Atura Power.

In what was to be a rather short and uneventful Council meeting in terms of discussion, Councillors were tasked with ratifying a number of significant items including granting their support for a battery energy storage project on Trent University’s lands known as the North-End Peterborough Storage System, which will be built by Atura Power on property leased to them by Trent.

The motion before Council was to provide support for the application for the project, which is being run as a competitive procurement process by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a crown corporation in charge of operating Ontario’s electricity market and systems.

The motion passed with a single vote against by Councillor Kevin Duguay and Mayor Jeff Leal abstaining due to his position as a director on City of Peterborough Holdings Inc. (CoPHI) which has its own application. 

During delagations, Trent University’s Vice President of External Relations, Julie Davis, explained the rationale for building the battery at the site on the north-end of Trent’s Symons campus and the next steps involved in the process.

Should Trent’s application be successful, “it will still need to go right through regular planning approval processes and environmental studies,” Davis told Council, and would include public consultation as a part of that process.  

Regarding the proposed site, which is directly north of Trent’s campus between Nassau Mills and 9th Line, overlapping a hydro corridor and adjacent to the Trent University farm, Davis explained that “those lands were identified to have low or no environmental constraints and are designated for future University use” during the studies that would lead to the approval of the Trent Land and Nature Areas Plan (TLNAP) in 2021.

The benefits, Davis continued, include addressing “the increasing demand for electricity” as well as ensuring “the stability and reliability of the supply.”

“From an environmental standpoint, it is proven technology,” Davis said. “The batteries are in weatherproof cabinets and are monitored remotely at all times 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The location is isolated, there are no environmental features of concern on that site.”

Planned location of the proposed North-End Peterborough Storage site. Courtesy: Atura Power.

This project also aligns with the university’s perennial wish to explore opportunities which will advance green energy projects while allowing learning opportunities for students, alongside stalled projects such as the “85 acres of possibility” at Cleantech Commons. 

Davis noted that Trent’s School of the Environment will be a partner in this endeavour and should this bid be successful, it would allow for students to understand the benefits of batteries as part of green initiatives.

Additionally, as the project will be carried out by Atura Power through a lease agreement with Trent University, the project will provide land lease revenue for Trent, something which Davis said is very important before erroneously suggesting that tuition and government funding to universities has been frozen for 10 years. 

In fact, it was less than five years ago in 2019, when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Government cut tuition rates in the province by 10% and cancelled free tuition for low-middle income students, before introducing a tuition freeze for domestic students. This decision has had the effect of forcing universities to depend more heavily on international students whose tuition is not regulated by the province in the same way.

Recently, however, the Ford government has allowed universities to apply for the ability to increase domestic tuition in programs that meet certain criteria. As such, in May of this year the Trent Board of Governors approved the 7.5% tuition increases for domestic students who started programs in Business Administration, Computer Science, and Data Science in September 2023.

According to Atura’s website, the company is a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the project is forecasted to store “132 megawatts (MW) of electricity for up to four hours to Ontario’s electrical grid” in a bid to “increase Ontario’s electricity storage, support grid reliability, and help advance Ontario’s path to a net-zero future.”

Davis also explained that Atura Power would pay approximately “$1000 per megawatt of contracted capacity” which would work out to an estimated annual contribution of $125,000 to the City of Peterborough as the host municipality.

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