Construction is set to begin in October for an upgraded power plant at the Union Gas head office on Keil Drive.
The existing plant, which provides the mechanical, electrical and battery backup systems for the head office, sits along the Thames River flood plain, said Andrea Stass, manager of media relations for the company.
“We did have some close calls a couple of years ago,” she said. “We built a retaining wall around it, but this is a more permanent solution.”
She said the existing building is actually 0.3 meters below the designed flood elevation.
“We have seen this river rise. We’ve had some close calls. It is at risk,” she said.
The new 8,200-square-foot plant will be built on the Grand Avenue side of the property on higher ground.
While the power plant will be higher up and further away from the river, it will also be an upgrade to the existing plant, Stass said. It will contain a natural-gas-powered generator that will provide electricity to the head office building.
The new power plant will also have a green roof.
“Essentially, it has certain types of plants on top. It helps the building effectively stay cooler, and will help mitigate costs and reduce the environmental impact,” Stass said.
She said the new power plant will likely cost in excess of $6 million, and is a sign of the company’s commitment to Chatham-Kent.
“We’ve been in this community for 100 years. I think this demonstrates our commitment to Chatham-Kent to continue to operate here,” she said.
A year ago, Spectra Energy, Union Gas’ parent company, merged with Enbridge, leaving many people concerned over the company’s local operations.
Construction is still a month away, but site preparation is underway this week.
Stass said the firm hired to do the work will be looking to subcontract to local companies whenever possible and procure materials locally as well.
The company anticipates the new power plant will take two years to complete, but Stass said they anticipate very little in the way of traffic interruptions on nearby Keil Drive and Grand Avenue during the work.
She added the process is being done with respect to their neighbours, with construction planned between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. as much as possible to limit the noise impact in the area.
Once the new power plant is operational, Stass said the old one will be decommissioned, but not torn down. She said it will still be maintained.