Hydro One announced on Sept. 30 that construction will begin late this year on a new 120,000 square foot Ontario grid control centre in Orillia, Ont. The project will consist of an Integrated Operations Centre, a provincial warehouse and a regional operations centre that will operate 24 hours a day to ensure the reliable delivery of electricity across the province.
The $150 million investment by Hydro One is the largest in Orillia’s history, said Mayor Steve Clarke. “Hydro One’s investment will result in a near-term economic impact of approximately $400 million for our municipality,” he said.
The City of Orillia (pop. 31,000) is located on the shore of Lake Couchchiching, 150 km north of Toronto. In its media release, Hydro One explained that the Orillia location was chosen, “for improved accessibility, cost considerations and minimal impact on employees working at the existing grid control centre in Barrie.”
Hydro One and the City of Orillia have been in project discussions since 2015. In fact, Hydro One purchased the 16.4 acre site near Lakehead University’s Orillia campus in 2016. At the time, the utility had negotiated a parallel agreement to purchase the electrical distribution system owned by the City’s wholly-own Orillia Power Corporation (OPC).
However, that portion of the deal failed to receive Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approval in April 2018, putting the facility project on standby. The City and Hydro One recently re-submitted the OPC transaction to the OEB. Both parties expect the proposal to be reviewed and hopefully approved later this year. In the meantime, the new grid control centre and the OPC purchase appear to have been separated. “This project is not tied to that OEB decision,” said Mayor Clarke.
While announcing the decision to begin construction, Darlene Bradley, Acting Chief Operating Officer, Hydro One, added that once OEB approval of the Orillia Power Corporation transaction is received, more local investments will follow.
The new grid control centre is scheduled to be open in 2021 and could result in as many as 250 high quality, high paying jobs coming to Orillia. Many of these will be transitioned from Hydro One’s existing grid control centre located Barrie, Ont. Once the Orillia facility is open, the Barrie centre will act as a backup.
When asked if construction contracts had been issued, Bradley said that Hydro One’s procurement process was at the final negotiation stage, adding that local suppliers will be sourced whenever possible. Further details concerning the project were not immediately available.
“The new grid control centre and warehouse will be Hydro One’s key facility for distributing power across the province of Ontario,” he said. “It will be home to our highly skilled employees who ensure electricity is moving safely across the province to large industrial customers, local electricity utilities and Hydro One’s 1.4 million residential and business customers.”