A fast-track installation of 115 MW of temporary electric generating equipment last summer helped secure the province of Ontario's power supply against hot-weather peak loads and ultimately helped the province recover from the blackout that struck northeastern North America in August.

Toromont Power Systems (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), a Caterpillar power equipment dealer, installed the temporary system in an intensive six-week effort, placing natural-gas-fueled, sound-attenuated power modules at three sites in and around Toronto. The equipment included 19 Cat XQ5200 power modules, each powered by a Solar Taurus 60 turbine and nominally rated at 5.2-MW continuous, and 13 Cat XQ1250G power modules, each powered by a Cat G3516B engine and nominally rated at 1.25-MW continuous.

The 115-MW “virtual power plant” was part of a larger effort that put 250 MW of temporary capacity in place as a hedge against summer peak loads.

“The previous summer, Ontario experienced hot and humid weather, along with low rainfall that reduced hydroelectric power output,” observed Peter Ronson, an account manager with Toromont Power Systems. “Despite importing power at its full 4000-MW capacity, the province was nearly forced to institute rolling blackouts.”

Temporary generation was placed in service in mid-July in a cooperative project involving the Independent Electricity Market Operator, the Ontario Electrical Finance Corp., local electric and natural-gas distribution utilities, provincial environmental and safety regulatory agencies, and multiple generating equipment manufacturers and dealers.

Ontario's need for temporary power grew from several years of increasing power demand, during which no significant new generating capacity was built. Also during that time, many nuclear power stations in the province, totaling 3500 MW, were taken out of service for upgrades.

The turnkey project required Toromont to not only supply generators and ancillary equipment, but also to handle installation, site selection, commissioning, operations and permitting. Toromont's contract called for half its 115 MW to be available by July 15 and the balance by July 30. To meet those deadlines, the company called upon the Cat Rental Power network, which provided access to equipment owned by Caterpillar and its dealers throughout North America.

“The project required shipment of some 2200 metric tons of equipment in 82 tractor-trailer loads,” Ronson said. “Installation required nearly 25,000 ft (7620 m) of electrical cable, some 1700 ft (518 m) of new natural gas lines, 40 new utility poles and 25,600 man-hours of labor.”

Units were set up for remote dispatch through PointGuard, a Caterpillar affiliate company that provides remote system monitoring and management services to Caterpillar dealers and customers.

The temporary units were not needed for summer peaking, but they did operate after the cascading blackout that hit Canada and the United States on August 14. Following the outage, many of Ontario's operating nuclear plants went into full shutdown, leaving the province short on capacity. The temporary units helped in restoration of the power grid, supplying continuous power for four days, then scaling back to peak-hour service for an additional three days, until the nuclear power stations came back online.
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