The efforts of some residents in Toronto's Mount Dennis neighbourhood have resulted in a greener Eglinton Crosstown LRT line. Steven Del Duca, Ontario's Minister of Transportation and Laura Albanese, the member of the Provincial parliament for York South-Weston, visited the future site of Mount Dennis Station yesterday to announce what's being called an "innovative energy solution" for powering the future LRT.

The Crosstown LRT route, rendering, Metrolinx

Metrolinx President and CEO, Bruce McCuaig, and Anthony Haines, Toronto Hydro President and CEO, joined the minister and MPP to announce that the Government of Ontario is partnering with Toronto Hydro to build a battery-energy storage system for the transit line. According to the Province, the storage system "will increase the reliability of the line, lower operating costs, and reduce emissions."

The power system, which is equivalent to a large battery, can supply back-up and emergency power to the LRT line for up to four hours in the event of a wide-spread power outage (typically, power outages are significantly shorter than four hours), and replaces plans for a natural-gas facility, previously proposed by Metrolinx's contractor Crosslinx Transit Solutions. The new system would also include a 19-kilowatt solar mirror.

According to the Province, the battery energy-storage system will provide greater environmental and operating cost savings than a natural gas powered facility. It will store energy that is generated overnight and during other off-peak hours, which is cheaper to buy and produce. This energy is then available to supply needs during the day.

The announcement of a gas plant was met with some degree of public outcry, with members of the community alarmed when an open house about plans for the Mount Dennis site in December 2015 revealed that Metrolinx and Crosslinx intended to include a natural gas facility on the site.

Mount Dennis power plant for Crosstown LRT

A Toronto Star article in January quoted a local resident concerned about the plan: "'The community doesn't object to putting a hydro plant on the old Kodak lands, where the light rail vehicle maintenance and storage facility is to be built. It just wants the province to look at greener technology,' said Simon Chamberlain of the Mount Dennis Community Association.'"

The Star also quoted Metrolinx, who explained that the 18-megawatt gas-fired plant would probably only be used a “handful” of times a year as a back-up generator. It would have the capacity to run the entire Crosstown system to avoid peak demand times on the provincial power grid and save about 40 per cent on the price of electricity. It would also generate enough power to run the entire Crosstown system in a power outage, said a spokesman for the agency."

A closer view of the proposed gas-powered facility, rendering, Metrolinx

Residents wrote to local MPP Albanese, who, in turn, asked Del Duca and Environment Minister Glen Murray to review the proposal. According to the York Guardian, by May, Metrolinx was "rethinking" its plans. "'We’re working... to explore alternatives to the proposed natural gas powered backup facility at the Kodak lands that would provide the same functionality,' the Crosstown’s community relations manager Jamie Robinson told the Guardian. 'Based on what we find, we will determine the path forward. Obviously if we find something with the same functionality then we don’t need the backup power facility, but we don’t know that right now.'"

At March 28th's Mount Dennis event, Del Duca announced that "we have listened to your community and are pleased to be able to deliver this alternative energy solution that will respect the concerns of the residents in this area while meeting the needs of the new LRT. This battery energy-storage system will provide environmental cost savings that will improve our quality of life as we keep people moving."

Aerial view of the future Mount Dennis LRT station, bus terminal and maintenance facility, rendering Metrolinx

The Mount Dennis site also includes a storage and maintenance facility for the LRT vehicles. Metrolinx intends to open the line to passengers in 2021. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum thread.

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