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Green Energy in Sault Ste Marie

Considering our unspoiled wilderness and industrial history, it’s not surprising that our region continues to attract innovative renewable energy projects. 

Sault Ste. Marie has gone green. It’s not such a bold claim when one considers the city’s gorgeous waterfront, kilometres of nature paths, and the untouched beauty of the wilds just outside of town. But those who remember the Sault only for its industrial history might be surprised to learn that the steel city is quickly becoming Canada’s renewable energy capital.

With Canada’s largest wind farm eight kilometres northwest of the city and a 60 megawatt solar collection array set to go online in 2010, Sault Ste. Marie is positioned to emerge as a leader in the new green economy.

The region was recognized for its clean energy potential as early as 1875 with the construction of a hydroelectric dam at the St. Marys River rapids. The inexpensive energy attracted the area’s first industries. When the area, which had always been an important water route, opened further with the arrival of the railroad in 1887, the Sault’s population doubled. The expansion was enabled, in part, by the electrical infrastructure provided by the hydro dam.

Solar farm

Considering its unspoiled wilderness and industrial history, it’s not surprising that the region continues to attract innovative renewable energy projects.

The Prince Wind Farm, located on a high-ridge above Lake Superior came online in 2006. The wind-energy project, the largest in Canada, is made up of 126 turbines spread out over 20,000 acres. Developed by Brookfield Power, the Prince Wind Farm employs fifteen full-time workers and technicians and generates 189 megawatts of clean, renewable energy – enough to power 40,000 homes. The project, which required the construction of 48 kilometres of access roads, cost more than $400 million to complete.

In addition to the electricity and employment it generates, the Prince Wind Farm project has influenced the way residents view renewable energy. The colossal towers among the trees can be seen for kilometres -- quiet reminders that a new age has arrived.

Wind Farm

Inspired by the wind farm, Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology has partnered with Brookfield Power to establish the Renewable Power Training Centre, a facility for the promotion of renewable energy research and education. As well, the college erected a wind turbine of its own. The college’s firmly established electrical program has been quick to incorporate a renewable energy concentration.

Sault College’s participation means that the renewable energy technicians needed for the new industries will be trained in the region. With its wind farm fully operational, the Sault looks toward the next large alternative energy project with two solar fields being developed by Pod Generating Group (PGG). The $360 million undertaking will be the largest solar farm in Canada and will generate enough power for 21,000 homes.

Sault College Turbine

Based in Sault Ste. Marie, Pod Generating Group was established to bring space technology to energy generation. Sault-native Glen Martin, PGG’s President and Chief Operating Officer, worked on NASA’s space station project as an employee of Boeing’s Space Systems. Martin represents a generation of highly skilled visionaries who are returning to the Sault, bringing with them astonishing skills and decades of experience. These professionals recognize the region’s capacity for developing and sustaining cutting-edge technologies and are eager to invest in its future.

Yet another innovative renewable energy initiative is underway at the Sault landfill. EnQuest Power Corporation has been conducting a twelve month pilot project that seeks to produce waste into fuel. The process involves heating refuse to 750- 950 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, waste is vaporized into a product called ‘syngas,’ which could be used as a fuel for homes and vehicles.

 The inert residue left behind from the process is said to resemble kitty litter. With municipalities struggling to manage waste streams, and with no end in sight to the production of waste, Enquest’s technology could be the next popular alternative. Perhaps in a decade or two, homes will be equipped with similar conversion devices.

Solar Farm2

All of this activity within the private sector has City Hall thinking green, and looking for new ways to promote conservation. Early in 2008, City Transit began running two of its 28 buses on a biofuel cocktail. The mixture replaces 5-10% of the diesel with plant-based fuels. For the first part of the year, soya was the biofuel of choice.

But the expense of transporting the soya from Southern Ontario led Transit to search for alternative crops. One has been found in the regionally grown canola-producing plants. Results from the experiment have been promising, especially in the older buses which give off more emissions than newer models, and further application of biofuels in the city’s fleet are expected to continue.

In the massive and global transformation of energy production toward sustainability, Sault Ste. Marie is ahead of the curve. The coming decades will bring new challenges and new opportunities for innovation. Once the second-largest producer of steel in Canada, Sault Ste. Marie is evolving into a significant player in the new sustainable economy.

Did you Know?
90 km of underground and 26 km of overhead collection systems were installed for the wind farm, as well as 112 km of transmission lines

The Sault area receives approximately 1,900 hours of sunlight per year

The Community Recycling Depot (285 Wilson St.) has diverted over 3 tonnes of styrofoam and 60 tonnes of electronics from the waste stream during the first seven months of operation

The Household Special Waste Facility (115 Industrial Park) diverted 120 tonnes of hazardous material from the landfill in its first five years of operation.

Community environmental group Clean North recycles more than 2,000 Christmas trees into garden
mulch each year

A $250 million ethanol plant using a newly developed one-step process to turn non-food biomass into fuel is under construction near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

To get a closer look at the Sault’s new windfarm, start at Airport Road/Second Line West, turn
North on Allen’s Side Road (look for Brookfield’s Power on Northwest corner) go West on
3rd Line, North on Maki, Maki becomes 6th Line W, follow, becomes Red Rock, follow Red Rock to the Lake. On a clear day, you can’t miss them – big whirly things in the sky above.

About Staff Writer Tourism SSM

Tourism Sault Ste. Marie (TSSM) was formed to bring the local tourism industry together to promote the city and assist in developing its economy.

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