Region's power supply needs to quadruple to meet expected demand from greenhouse industry

The independent manager of Ontario's power grid say its like adding enough power to supply a city the size of Ottawa.

A proposed transmission line would meet the need in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent

Greenhouse expansion in the Leamington area is expected to drive up demand for hyrdo. (CBC News)

Hydro One will need to quadruple the power supply to the Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent area over the next 15 years to meet the expected electricity demand from expanding greenhouse operations, according to the independent manager of Ontario's power grid.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is recommending a transmission line project that could cost between $210 and $290-million be built between Lambton and Chatham.

"It would be like building a city the size of Ottawa in that area," said Chuck Farmer, senior director of power system planning with the IESO.

"I haven't seen, personally, a region with the kind of consistent growth that this one has," said

Farmer said the greenhouse operations in the region are seeing an unparalleled rate of expansion, pushed by growing conditions favourable for growing vegetables and cannabis. 

He said there's a concentrated area around Leamington, Dresden and Kingsville that requires about 500MW of electricity, which through conversations with local stakeholders, Farmer expects to jump to 2000MW by the mid-2030s.

A look at the grid and the proposed transmission line. A specific path has not been determined. (Supplied by Independent Electricity System Operator)

A pair of options were studied: building a new generation facility in the area or building a transmission line from a facility in Lambton.

Farmer said the cost effective option was a transmission line, but did not rule out a generation facility coming online in the future. 

The project would be completed by Hydro One, with consultations starting this week. Those community consultations will continue as the design and scope of the project is being considered.

The IESO believes there's enough power supply for the region now and should be able to sustain growth until 2028, at which point the transmission line - if approved - should be completed.