The power generating station in Cochrane could be started up again this spring, under a new district energy model, thanks to ongoing talks that are yielding progress between stakeholders and the province.
The 42-megawatt cogeneration facility, currently majority owned by Northland Power, shut down in May of 2015 when a new contract could not be negotiated with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
Last year, despite efforts to be included in a procurement process that awarded 16 renewable energy contracts to projects across the province, the Cochrane station was shut out again.
But finding an ally in the new provincial energy minister, Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault, renewed efforts to reach a compromise, and Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis is optimistic about the results.
"There is steady dialogue now, which is completely different than what was taking place over two years," Politis said.
"There are specialists assigned by the government to work with us, and we have specialists with Northland Power who are working with us and the group, as well," he added. "We've pulled together all the interest groups just before Christmas and brainstormed a little more, and what we're doing together now is putting together a business plan."
Politis said the plan is fairly aggressive: the group is looking at a May or June startup.
But as a "turnkey" operation, the plant doesn't require any additional infrastructure and can be up and running quickly.
Under the new model, the plant would start by supplying to industrial customers under the local utility, Northern Ontario Wires. That includes the two local lumber mills--Tembec and Rockshield Engineered Wood Products and the Town of Cochrane.
If that's successful, the utility can then feed power to the nearby municipalities of Kapuskasing and Iroquois Falls, which are also already part of the distribution network.
And if that works, the utility could look at expanding the distribution network from there. At that point, Politis said, the utility may...