A rendering of Oneida Energy Storage Project in Haldimand County, Ont., showing how 278 large batteries will be installed by 2025. The project will be able to power a city the size of Oshawa. (Aecon via The Narwhal)
  • The Oneida Energy Storage Project, co-owned by Six Nations of the Grand River, is set to revolutionize energy supply in Ontario and potentially across Canada, showcasing the future of renewable energy.
  • The project aims to advance reconciliation and make renewables more reliable, with the ability to power a city the size of Oshawa and significantly reduce carbon pollution.
  • By creating meaningful partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and disrupting the province's energy grid, Oneida is poised to reshape Ontario's power industry and pave the way for a carbon-free future.

The Oneida Energy Storage Project, co-owned by Six Nations of the Grand River, aims to advance reconciliation and make renewables more reliable across Ontario, and potentially all of Canada.

Located two hours south of Toronto, between an oil refinery and a steel plant, lies a ten-acre maze of grids, endless grey steel frames, and wind turbines. On this land, six Haudenosaunee Nations coexist, and the future of Ontario’s energy supply depends on it. This energy corridor was built in the early 20th century without the input or consent of the Six Nations of the Grand River community.

Decades of Energy Policy Making Waves

In just two years, an energy storage farm comprising 278 batteries will have the capacity to power a city the size of Oshawa, with a population of roughly 410,000. It is important to consider the source of the energy stored in these batteries. If it comes from renewable sources, the carbon pollution created by approximately 40,000 cars will be reduced from the atmosphere annually.

Enter Oneida

The largest battery storage farm in Canada is set to be built on the energy corridor and will become the third largest in the world upon completion. Currently under construction, the project will be 50% owned by Six Nations.

In 2015, the Six Nations Development Corporation was launched with the intention of being an active investor in renewable energy generation. Owned by Six Nations, its aim was to promote energy efficiency for the community while exploring economic opportunities for renewable energy investments to benefit future generations.

The Hole in the Energy Landscape

Energy storage has been overlooked for over a century. The energy generated is primarily transmitted through power lines, even when it is not immediately needed, such as at night. You may wonder what happens to the excess energy. Some is sold, but much of it is wasted.

This waste can be significant, especially in the case of nuclear power generated during off-peak hours. On the other hand, with energy storage solutions, energy created by any source can be stored for later use.

Annette Verschuren, founder of Michaels and former president of Home Depot Canada, started NRStor, a company that develops and manages energy storage projects across Canada. Annette was inspired to address what she saw as a gap in the energy landscape.

Storage and Renewables Make a Strong Pairing

Wind power is a prime example of a renewable energy source greatly enhanced by storage solutions. Wind power is most effectively generated at night when it is least needed. If storage solutions are in place, wind turbines would not need to be shut down, which is an expensive task.

Additionally, there would be no surplus energy generated because the energy storage solutions would store wind energy and release it as needed throughout the day.

Creating Meaningful Partnerships with Indigenous Peoples

Oneida was founded by NRStor, a woman-led energy company, in partnership with the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.

The project will be one of the largest attempts to put into practice the 92nd recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Act, which urges corporate Canada to genuinely and meaningfully partner with Indigenous Peoples in all economic development projects. It involves collaboration among multiple levels of government, the Indigenous community, and public companies to ensure the right approach to large-scale development projects.

The Province’s Grid Will Never Be the Same

Oneida is expected to have a disruptive impact on Ontario’s grid at multiple levels. Once completed, the project will permanently alter how the province’s grid operates and consequently, how numerous energy projects across the country are managed.

Large-scale energy storage projects like Oneida could be the answer to one of Canada’s biggest obstacles in achieving a carbon-free power grid.

Currently, there are imbalances between the supply and demand of renewable energy. Energy storage solutions could release stored renewable energy when the sun sets or the wind dies down, reducing the need for fossil fuel plants to generate energy during peak demand times.

What Does Ontario’s Power Industry Look Like?

The power industry in Ontario is complex and layered. Currently, it is owned and operated by various government agencies. Generators produce the power supply, which is then transmitted to neighborhoods by distributors like Hydro One. The Independent Electricity System Monitor is responsible for balancing the supply and demand for the entire system.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Energy oversees the policies and manages the grid itself. One frustrating aspect of getting a project off the ground is that all these parties must agree for any changes to occur.

Groundbreaking in Canada, Commonplace Elsewhere

Significant storage projects already exist in Australia, Europe, and the United States, but the proposal put forth by Oneida was unfamiliar to Canadian governments and energy operators. At such a large scale, energy storage technology is relatively new. It took years before the project could be formalized.

Concerns about feasibility arose. However, as energy demands soared during the pandemic, governments became more willing to consider the proposal. Nevertheless, the contract had to be consistently renegotiated throughout the pandemic as supply prices fluctuated and eventually became much more expensive.

Oneida to Have the Largest Storage Capacity in North America

Oneida is a project that could set the tone for the future of the renewables industry in Canada. The goal is to have it built by 2025. Oneida will provide 20 years of steady revenue for Six Nations, with residents of Six Nations making up at least half of the project’s workforce.

Perhaps the most significant impact of Oneida is that it is set to destabilize the ownership of the grid.

Ontario’s Energy System Will Change for the Better

It will no longer be seen as an energy system controlled entirely by the provincial government, impervious to public input on major decisions. With Canada’s ambitious climate goals and renewable energy targets, energy will play a crucial role in economic development and growth.

Therefore, it is important to consider who can help shape the future of the industry.

This article used source material from an original story By Fatima Syed for “The Narwhal”.

Sofia Martimianakis
Sofia is a writer who has public sector and renewable energy industry experience. She holds an HBA from the University of Toronto and an MA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo.

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