North Bay, Ont., plans to harness power with its new Community Energy Park.

North Bay Hydro Services broke ground on Friday on its microgrid project, which will see solar panels, a battery and a co-generator unit built on top of the YMCA.

The energy generated will provide heat and electricity for the YMCA, the Aquatic Centre and the nearby Memorial Gardens arena says Todd Wilcox president and chief operating officer for the utility company.

"The location was chosen because first of all these are very important community assets and a lot of people use them on a daily basis."

The facilities also serve as emergency shelters in the North Bay community. With the new energy additions during a power outage or state of emergency the grid will provide self-sustained power and heat, Wilcox says.

"We have an automated 'island'-ing capability, so if the grid goes down then we can automatically switch this over to being self-sufficient, off the microgrid."

Wilcox calls this a key step in the evolution of Smart Grids technology and microgrids.

'First microgrid of this size in Canada'

"This is the first microgrid of this size in Canada and using this technology, and it's being done here," Wilcox says.

groundbreaking north bay microgrid

North Bay Hydro Services says this will be the first microgrid of its size in Canada, using this technology. It is expected to be completed by September 2018. (Supplied/ North Bay Hydro)

The energy generated from the microgrid would be the equivalent to powering 300-400 homes.

"The energy park is designed to meet about 90 per cent of the electricity requirements of this large arena, pool facility and the YMCA. So about ten per cent will be imported from the grid," Wilcox says.

The infrastructure will also include an electrical vehicle charging station capable of charging two or more vehicles.

The project has a $4.5 million price tag. The cost to the city of North Bay is $260,000. The provincial and federal governments have providing $1.6 million to the project.

The Community Energy Park microgrid should be up and running by September 2018.

With files from Angela Gemmill