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Site selection for battery project draws ire of nearby landowners

Yukon Energy is accepting public comments on three possible sites for the project
Yukon Energy is in the process of selecting a site for their battery storage project which will be about the size of half a football field. Three options in and around Whitehorse are being considered. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon Energy is in the site selection process for a new energy storage system, but residents at one of the three options say the battery project doesn’t fit in a residential neighbourhood.

The battery storage project will allow Yukon Energy to store renewable power for peak times when the need for energy on the grid is highest. This will save money and emissions by requiring less diesel fuel to be burned.

“They’re starting to appear in the North and be used,” said Yukon Energy president and CEO Andrew Hall.

The size of the facility is expected to be about half the size of a football field and will be made up of container units with lithium-ion batteries contained within. The site will be fenced and secured.

Lithium-ion batteries are flammable, but Yukon Energy said the risk of a fire is low and the facility will have qualified technicians, routine checks, a fire suppression system and a response plan.

Three sites are being considered; Site B is on Ta’an Kwäch’än Council land across from the Whitehorse LNG facility on Robert Service Way. Site C, is Kwanlin Dün First Nation land at the northeast corner of the Alaska Highway and Robert Service Way.

The third site, Site A, is on Kwanlin Dün First Nation land beside the Takhini substation on the North Klondike Highway. Because of its location outside of the city, municipal property taxes do not apply and it would cost around $14,000 less annually to operate than the two other locations.

But that final proposed site is also close to a number of residential properties, including right beside Vanessa Just’s recently purchased seven acres. She said she doesn’t understand why a residential area is being considered.

“Putting it in a residential area isn’t necessarily acceptable when there are two other options available,” she said.

“We made the decision to move here because of the country and the quiet. As long as they go with the other two options, everything’s fine. But I just want to make sure that they really consider what they’re asking.”

Just said in addition to noise and light pollution, she also has a young family and small agricultural business on the property and is concerned about an increased fire or explosion hazard, despite the safety assurances from Yukon Energy.

“Lithium-ion batteries do have some fire risk but they’re designed with a lot of fire protection in place,” Hall said. “Each container that the batteries are contained in includes its own fire suppression. So I’d say that the overall risk is low.”

Chris Caldwell, another neighbour close to the property, said residents have worked hard to keep the area residential rather than industrial and will continue to do so. She said increased noise and light is still a concern.

The notes on the project from Yukon Energy state that “sound mitigation equipment would need to be installed in order for sound levels at the nearest neighbour to be below permissible sound levels.”

Sound mitigation wouldn’t be required at the two other sites.

This is the first battery storage project in Yukon of this scale. Smaller battery facilities will eventually be in operation at the Kluane wind project. Other facilities are also in use in remote villages in northern Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

The anticipated capital costs of the project is around $27 million, while annual operating costs vary from around $200,000 to $214,000.

Public comments will be accepted on the three sites until Sept. 20, and can be submitted online at Hall said the site selection will likely be announced in November.

The battery is expected to be operational in 2022.

Contact Haley Ritchie at