How Will TC Energy’s Pumped Storage Project Impact Georgian Bay?
TC Energy (TCE) is proposing to construct a very large pumped storage facility just north of Meaford on land owned by the Department of National Defense (DND). The project is at the pre-design stage and TCE and DND are currently holding public consultations on the proposal. (TCE is the new name for TransCanada Corporation and is the majority shareholder of TransCanada Pipelines.)
How it Works
As per the diagrams, water would be pumped out of Georgian Bay into the reservoir above at low off-peak hydro rates, when most of Ontario’s energy needs are being supplied by low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and wind energy. It would then be released down the steep slope to generate power at peak demand times, when we rely more heavily on natural gas-fired power plants. The current site was selected because it provides 150 m of vertical elevation above the lake and is within 100 km of a power grid that can handle the level of power the project is projected to produce.
- Output: 1,000 MW
- Stored energy: 8,000 MWh (1,000MW per hour for 8 hours)
- Flow rate in both directions: equivalent to ~42% of the average flow rate over the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls).
- Efficiency: ~72% – i.e. for every 100 KW used to pump the water into the reservoir, 72 KW are generated when the water is released.
Although the project is proposed for a site on the west coast of the Bay, GBA is examining this project because we have several concerns about its environmental impact on Georgian Bay, notably an increase to fish mortality, water turbidity, water temperatures, and habitat destruction. These impacts will affect the entire Bay, and we are concerned about the precedent it will set.
At this stage, GBA has gathered additional information on the proposal from TCE, DND and a local group opposed to the project, Save Georgian Bay. As we move forward, we will continue our research and discuss our findings with all appropriate stakeholders. We will support conversations with TCE about alternative locations and/or technologies for the project.
The main potential benefits of this project include:
- At peak demand, gas-fired power stations are currently brought online. This project could reduce that output by 1,000 MW per hour for up to 8 hours per day, which would significantly reduce current CO2
- By capturing excess power that would otherwise be wasted, and releasing it when needed at peak times, the project could enhance the efficiency, flexibility, reliability and security of the Ontario electricity supply system. It could also provide back-up power during grid disruptions and better integrate other power generation facilities in the province. Collectively this grid balancing could reduce costs of electricity for Ontario consumers by an estimated $250 million per year.
Potential Negative Impacts
The main negative impacts that may arise include:
- The water intake could entrain (kill) 1-10 million fish per year. TCE believes that by adding additional mitigation initiatives it could reduce fish kill to 1 million fish per year for its project, but environmental assessments are needed to confirm this.
- The outflow would very likely disturb significant quantities of lakebed sediment and bring sediment down from the reservoir that would be dispersed over a very large area of Georgian Bay. Given that DND has used this site as a training facility and firing range for decades, this raises concerns over the release of various pollutants, including heavy metals, into the nearby waters.
- The huge outflow from TCE’s reservoir could warm the water over a wide area, disrupt water currents in Georgian Bay, and destroy fish habitat near the outflow. All of these effects could significantly impact fish habitat, particularly for those species that move along the shore.
- There are 11 animal species at risk onshore at this location whose habitat would very likely be destroyed or severally compromised, both from the construction activity and the permanent flooding of 375 acres on the Niagara Escarpment to create the reservoir. The endangered butternut tree also grows on the site.
- While most of the hydro lines needed to connect to the grid in Collingwood would be constructed along existing power corridors (with minimal impact), new sections will be required. These will likely cause some ecosystem damage, along with habitat disruption or destruction. Alternatively, a large underwater cable might be laid that would further disrupt lakebed sediment and potentially the local marine environment.
What is GBA doing?
- GBA is involved in the consultation process and is gathering information on the proposal from TCE, Department of National Defense (who own the land) and a local group opposed to the project, Save Georgian Bay.
- Our aim is to persuade TCE to consider alternative closed loop locations or technologies to achieve the same objectives, or maximize mitigation should the project go ahead.
How can you help?
- Consider signing Save Georgian Bay’s petition, which can be found here.
A more detailed report on this project can be found here.
Save Georgian Bay
Save Georgian Bay (www.savegeorgianbay.ca) has a petition underway with over 19,000 signatures to date. The group has assembled relevant engineering, environmental consultancy, and biologist skills to back up their opposition to this project.
Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON)
TCE have entered into discussions with SON. This is likely to improve their negotiating position with government. Materials from their information session can be found here.