Saturday, May 21, 2022

Batteries vs. Pumped Storage

Dear Editor,

Me: Batteries! Batteries! Hey! Some Environmental Consultant in the paper says we should look at batteries instead of pumped storage for our energy storage needs. Didn’t one of our local crackpots write a long boring overly wordy letter to the Editor detailing precisely how dangerous large-scale batteries were compared to the safety and reliability of pumped storage plants?

My wife: That was you. In January. Remember?

Me: Oh, yeah. Never mind.

In his letter of March 31, Mr. Rodgers also dredged up another old chestnut/favourite of the Save Georgian Bay team: “It won’t endanger the lives of those living below a man-made reservoir.”

That brought to mind a different conversation from a different time. One I remember very well. One I’m still working on actually.

My old lab partner isn’t from Meaford but knows the area quite well. Over the last couple of years, he’s developed a real interest in what I’ll charitably refer to as the Save Georgian Bay team’s lack of academic rigour in their threat assessment process. To the point that we had a conversation that went just like this:

Him: They know there’s a lake up there already. Right? Over their heads. A lake? On an active army base that people can’t even visit. Correct?

Me: Sure. But they’re not worried about the lake. Only man-made water containment structures can fail and wipe out broad swathes of people and their homes.

Him: Why don’t they trust big swimming pools? Water – that’s in the ground?

Me: There seems to be some lingering concern about the quality of engineers and engineering services specific to the Meaford area. These pumped storage things are apparently safe everywhere else in the world – just not in Meaford. It can’t be done safely here. Only here.

Him: Got it. OK. So. Large amounts of water stored above people and their homes – deadly. Reckless. Dangerous. Can’t be done safely – in Meaford. Got it.

Him: So why is it you guys in Meaford store more than a half a million liters of water in a 74-year-old water tower directly above your hospital? Can’t exactly miss it when you come into town? Why aren’t these people trying to save the hospital, the community centre, the people on Trowbridge, Nelson, and Berry Streets? And the new library! Why won’t someone think of the new library?

Me: Ummmmm. Well. Ahhhh. Hold on. OK. I think I got it. Maybe water towers are the exact opposite of pumped storage plants? What if water towers storing vast quantities of water over people’s heads are a deadly menace everywhere else in the world – most small towns in Canada in fact – but they’re safe in Meaford! The opposite of how pumped storage is perfectly safe everywhere – but here? And maybe they could still bring in engineers from out of town in 1948. When our water tower was built?

Him: Does that sound, I don’t know, plausible, to you? Alternatively, what if people have been storing water safely over their heads for decades? For centuries! Everywhere? Even right in the heart of Meaford?

(You can maybe see how he helped me get through school.)

Bruce Mason, Meaford

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