Ontario Manufacturer Ditches the Grid

T&T’s Tilo McAlister Shares a Unique Case Study at APPrO 2019

Toronto | November 23, 2019

“It is an interesting instance that could become more common in other jurisdictions as our grid becomes more expensive, and the standby fee situation gets worse.”

T&T Power Group’s Tilo McAlister was invited to participate in the 'Revelations from Recent Deployments’ panel (part of the DER Ecosystem conference stream) at the Association of Power Producers of Ontario (APPrO)’s 31st Annual Canadian Power Conference & Networking Centre in Toronto.

More than 400 participants attended APPrO 2019 to discuss and learn about a wide range of issues surrounding power production including topics like Market Renewal, technology change, and options for ensuring resource adequacy.

At the conference, Tilo told the unique story of one of T&T’s most interesting and atypical installations; going into detail about how we were able to successfully enable a large manufacturer in a poorly serviced area of southwestern Ontario to defect from the grid completely.

Really happy to be here on this panel. Really interesting and timely discussion,” Tilo began.

“We’ll zoom in a little bit on one particular application, and just tell a kind of interesting story about a really early adopter scenario where a large private manufacturing facility ultimately decided for a number of reasons to defect from the electrical grid entirely, take complete control of their own power, and generate 100% of their electrical requirements on-site from natural gas.”

A fairly rare occurrence in Ontario, Tilo explained that this solution wouldn’t work everywhere or be a good idea for everyone — and with that said, it sure makes for a compelling story.

The customer: a manufacturing facility in a rural area in southwestern Ontario that's been in operation for over 50 years.

But the problem was, as they continued to grow and install more modern equipment, their power quality issues became more prevalent due to their poorly serviced location. In addition to this, the customer has the largest gun drilling facility in North America, only exacerbating the problem. “It wasn’t actually power failures that were the big issue,” Tilo said. “It was any little minor interruption or fluctuation or instantaneous problem.

“All those machines would hit the fritz; all those little drill bits would snap off in the part, and you gotta replace them all every time. You gotta get them out of the part, throw out a lot of parts, probably. It’s obviously very, very expensive.”

And then, there’s the labor, Tilo explained. “Standing around, scratching their head, waiting for production to start again. And as this started to happen more and more, unfortunately the relationship with the LDC (Local Destribution Company) deteriorated in sync.”

But fortunately, this wasn’t anything that our problem solving specialists at T&T Power Group couldn’t find a solution for — although it certainly was a challenge.

“T&T Power Group got introduced to the conversation to help him design a solution that would successfully take him completely off-grid,” Tilo explained. “He had some very simple priorities: fix the power quality problem, that was number one. Number two, he’s an old dutch guy so the machines had to be orange (laughs), so fortunately, Siemens engines are orange… beyond that, to have a competitive operational expense that would be similar to or better than the grid.”

One of our customer’s greatest frustrations was not only the poor power quality in his area, but the fact that he was competing with similar facilities across North America for his products that were paying a fraction of what he was paying for electricity, and for high-quality power, at that.

Moving forward to our installation plan, our customer was able to provide us with a large, empty building that we could use to fill with power generation. Tilo demonstrated the total of eight generators working together inside that once empty shell; all natural gas-fired Siemens engines with a combined capability of creating just under 4 megawatts of electrical power.

One of our customer’s greatest frustrations was not only the poor power quality in his area, but the fact that he was competing with similar facilities across North America for his products that were paying a fraction of what he was paying for electricity, and for high-quality power.

Tilo continued about what he considered to be the biggest challenge for T&T regarding this project. “To gain the very intimate and deep understanding of the business itself and their operations and the load profile they have... we had to work with the customer to understand what their loads were, maybe change them a little bit and take some new operations into consideration, some adjustments so that these generators could actually provide a higher quality of power from his LDC.”

But that certainly wasn’t our only challenge. “The other factor, of course, being redundancy,” Tilo said.

“There's a lot of conversation about the resiliency components of continuous power generation in applications like this during power failures on the grid. But in this case, he’s not connected to the grid, so we have to have resiliency within the system. And that's one of the reasons you see a selection of eight generators versus maybe one or two that could potentially generate electricity a little bit more efficiently, but if one of those is down for service, you’ve got a problem.

“Being able to control the machines to run at the highest capacity possible was definitely a bit of a challenge as well that we had to be sure to overcome.”

As utility costs and standby fees continue to inflate, T&T Power Group is confident that our robust power solutions like this one will begin to look like increasingly smarter investments for our customers as the years go by.

“As far as we’re concerned as a company at T&T Power Group, this is not a typical installation for us,” Tilo concluded. “You have somebody who, in this case, is definitely an early adopter."

“This worked for him right now, at this location, and I can't think of many where it would work so well.”

T&T Power Group would like to thank APPrO for the wonderful opportunity to participate in last week’s conference, and for the donation they made on our behalf to Forests Ontario to support the environmental health of Ontario through the planting of trees.

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