By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The preferred route for Hydro One’s new high voltage St. Clair transmission line from Lambton County to Chatham has been chosen.
Officials from the utility unveiled the decision Monday, calling it the best of five options, as the new line follows existing power corridors up to 80 per cent of the time, increasing the line’s capacity from 115 kilovolts to 232 kilovolts.
It will deliver some 400 megawatts of energy.
Hydro One’s director of project delivery said the infrastructure line will help fuel economic growth, as Southwestern Ontario’s electricity needs are expected to quadruple by 2035.
“The new St. Clair transmission line will unlock the economic potential of the region and support local supply chains,” said Sonny Karunakaran, adding the utility will continue to engage with the community as the development proceeds.
Service is slated to begin in 2028.
Construction of the 62-kilometre line, which connects the Lambton transmission station with the Chatham transmission station, will see new towers replace the old, as well as a significant upgrade to the Wallaceburg transformer station, increasing power reliability to Wallaceburg and Walpole Island First Nation. It will carry enough energy to power a city the size of Waterloo.
Karunakaran said extensive public engagement, including consultation with the Indigenous community, went into the decision, noting the preferred route is the least invasive when it comes to protecting the environment and valuable farmland.
“It was the standout winner,” Karunakaran said.
More than 60 per cent of the preferred route repurposes the existing transmission corridor, but it needs to be widened and new land needs to be acquired. Nearly 20 per cent of the new route utilizes existing corridor lands not yet occupied by transmission infrastructure.
Local politicians and agri-business leaders are lauding the announcement.
“The impact of this line, once built, will be remarkable for the region,” said Ontario Federation of Agriculture Essex and Kent director Louie Roesch in a media release.
“We continue to work very closely with Hydro One and offer feedback from our members, which is critical as the project continues to move ahead,” he said.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers echoed his comments.
“This project will enable the greenhouse vegetable sector to grow in Ontario, reinforcing the domestic food production system,” said board chair George Gilvesy.
Karunakaran pointed out public engagement will continue as the project unfolds, with three community open houses on tap this month. The first will take place June 26 at the Brigden Fairgrounds in St. Clair Township. A second is slated for June 27 at the UAW hall in Wallaceburg, with a third at the Kent Belgian Centre in Chatham June 28. Each session runs from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Hydro One real estate agents are expected to reach out to affected property owners in the near future.
The St. Clair line is but one of five projects Hydro One has planned for the region. Construction has started on the Chatham to Lakeshore transmission line. Also in the works are two new lines from Strathroy-Caradoc to Lakeshore, and another is planned from Lakeshore to Windsor.