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Solar facility opens at former Ontario coal plant once the largest in North America


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April 2, 2019 by David Kennedy

The facility covers about 260 acres and includes 192,431 solar panels. PHOTO: OPG

NANTICOKE, Ont.—What was once the largest coal generating station in North America has exchanged its stacks for solar panels.

Ontario Power Generation announced March 29 a new 44-megawatt solar facility has begun producing power at the site of the former Nanticoke Generating Station on the shores of Lake Erie.

With a peak capacity of about 4,000 MW, the massive coal plant once pumped out a prodigious amount of energy — with the associated emissions to match. It burned its last piece of coal in 2013 as Ontario worked to decommission its entire slate of coal plants, a target it reached the following year.

The shift to solar came shortly after.

The Independent Electricity System Operator, which oversees Ontario’s grid, tapped OPG along with two First Nations partners to develop the solar facility at and around the Nanticoke plant in 2016.

PCL Construction led construction on the project, starting work in 2018. It also won the supply contract for the thousands of photovoltaic solar panels.

All told, the 44 MW facility spans 260 acres and includes 192,431 panels. It produces a fraction of electricity the former coal plant churned out, but generates none of the emissions.

While the new solar facility is up and running, decommissioning work on the coal plant, which first opened in 1972, is ongoing.

A pair of 198-metre (650-foot) smokestacks were demolished last year, while the station’s powerhouse is slated to be torn down this September. The removal of several of buildings and remediating the on-site coal yard are expected to be complete by the end of 2020.

 

Watch the demolition of the coal plant’s twin stacks last year:


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