North America’s largest coal plant to be reopened as 44MW solar farm


There is little doubt that times are changing for the energy industry, as renewables make their charge, but few projects emphasize the shift as acutely as the Nanticoke Generating Station in Ontario, Canada. Once North America’s most powerful coal plant, it will now be converted into a solar farm as part of the province’s Large Renewable Procurement program.

The old plant was an energy-generating power house, churning out almost 4GW at its peak. However, it was closed down in 2013, as Ontario successfully eliminated coal from its energy mix.

Sitting idle for almost three years, a permit has now been granted to Nanticoke Solar, by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, to turn the plant into a 44MW solar farm. It is a joint venture lead by Sun Edison Canadian Construction, alongside Six Nations Development Corporation and Ontario Power Generation. “The project is a great example of how countries are retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean, renewable power plants,” said Michelle Chislett, SunEdison vice-president and country manager for Canada.

Sixteen contracts have already been granted for renewable energy projects, as part of the Ontario’s Large Renewable Procurement program, which will total 455MW of power once completed. Contracts given to solar projects were capped at 140MW, and have all been awarded now, in a province that already has over 2,000MW of solar capacity.

Ontario made a commitment to building a clean economy, and as part of that commitment managed to completely phase out coal in 2014. This has been partially blamed for a significant increase in energy prices for consumers, who have seen prices rise from 7 cents US per KWh in 2006, to 13 cents US per KWh in 2015. However, the health benefits have been also been significant, as the province reduced its smog days from 109 between 2005 and 2007, to zero in 2015.