TC Energy says they have reached an agreement with the Department of National Defence, that “subject to conditions and regulatory approval, allows for the development of a transformative 1,000-megawatt clean energy storage project on federal lands.”
According to a press release issued by TC Energy on July 28, the project will see a multi-billion dollar private sector investment over the next eight years that once operating would “provide emission-free electricity for the province, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an expected 490,000 tonnes – the equivalent of removing 150,000 cars from Ontario roads.”
Opponents of the proposed facility question the need for the facility, particularly an open-loop system that many fear will result in negative impacts for Georgian Bay and its many aquatic species.
Local advocacy group Save Georgian Bay formed shortly after the proposed project became public in August of 2019. The group has collected more than 3,395 signatures on a petition opposing the proposed hydroelectric pumped storage facility on the Meaford Tank Range, and copies of the petition were delivered to Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Alex Ruff and MPP Bill Walker.
Members of Save Georgian Bay note that between the proposed reservoir and the bay are a number of residential homes, and they also suggest that the system would be wasteful.
“Every time the reservoir is filled, it will draw water from the bay plus everything living in that water. The 30% inefficiency of the PSP is also a huge waste of electricity that could otherwise meet the energy needs of a city the size of Barrie or 16 Meafords,” Bruce Rodgers, Environmental Consultant, and member of Save Georgian Bay, said recently.
TC Energy on the other hand, says their proposal is a green initiative that would consume inexpensive off-peak power at night to pump water from Georgian Bay into a 374-acre storage reservoir located 150 metres above the Georgian Bay shoreline on the military base. The reservoir, which would hold 20 million cubic metres of water, would be emptied back into Georgian Bay during peak usage periods, driving hydraulic turbines to generate electricity.
John Mikkelsen, TC Energy’s Director of Power Business Development, told Council in September of last year that the corporation has been listening to the concerns of area residents, and he said that changes have been made to the project design in response to those concerns, adding an extra $1 billion to the original estimate of $3.3 to construct the facility.
“Since we announced our intention to study the feasibility of the development of a pumped storage project at the Meaford Tank Range, there has been much discussion in this community. From our perspective this discussion is a constructive and essential component of project development,” Mikkelsen told Council on September 28, 2020. “It has raised awareness of the project, and it has also raised important concerns which need to be addressed. I assure you we are listening, and we are taking these concerns very seriously.”
Mikkelsen pointed to a number of design changes announced last summer as evidence that TC Energy is listening to the concerns expressed by residents, and two key changes have been incorporated into the new designs. TC Energy said that the powerhouse has been moved away from the shoreline and will be buried in a cavern. The water intake and outfall has been moved away from the shoreline into deep water, which TC Energy says will avoid sensitive near-shore fish habitat. Additionally, the proponent has committed to sub-sea transmission lines as opposed to overland transmission lines.
“We are grateful to the citizens of Meaford for their active involvement,” Mikkelsen told Council.
Mikkelsen said that the design changes made thus far have pushed the projected cost of the project from $3.3 billion to $4.3 billion.
Recently, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) has weighed in on the proposed pumped storage facility on Meaford’s Tank Range. In a press release issued in June of this year, the OCAA suggested that there are better alternatives than are found in the proposal put forward by TC Energy.
“The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA), an organization that led the successful campaign to phase-out Ontario’s five coal-fired power plants, and are now working to move Ontario towards a 100% renewable future, are proposing a cost-effective alternative to the proposed TC Energy Corporation (formerly TransCanada Pipeline) project for a pumped storage plant (PSP) on the shore of Georgian Bay,” the organization explained in the press release. “The OCAA proposes an alternative that would benefit the Ontario ratepayer by reducing the cost by 98% of the TC Energy proposal.”
The OCAA has instead proposed extending transmission lines to use water power from Quebec during Ontario’s peak demand instead.
“Hydro One could upgrade its transmission system to allow us to import an additional 2,000 megawatts of peak Quebec water power at a cost of only approximately $80 million. Quebec could provide us with twice as much peak power as the TC Energy project at a capital cost that is 98.14 percent lower,” said Jack Gibbons, Chair, OCAA. “According to TC Energy, the PSP is the ‘most proven, economical’ way to provide us with 1,000 megawatts of peak power to help phase out Ontario’s gas-fired power plants. This is simply not true,” added Gibbons.
On July 28 the DND issued a statement regarding the proposed pumped storage facility.
“The Department of National Defence has signed an Agreement in Principle with TC Energy that will see the company advance to an Impact Assessment for a proposed hydroelectric pumped-storage facility at 4th Canadian Division Training Centre Meaford (4 CDTC),” the DND advised. “This Agreement in Principle provides that the project could operationally co-exist at 4 CDTC if it does not impact military activities and training. It is anticipated that TC Energy will soon pursue additional Impact Assessment and Environmental Assessment processes with both the federal and provincial governments. Should these assessments be positive, TC Energy may then seek a licence for the project under the Dominion Water Power Act (DWPA). The DWPA requires that the land remain Crown property. Importantly, the Agreement in Principle confirms that the project will not move forward unless all necessary provincial and federal assessments are completed, including required regulatory approvals, and mitigation is in place for possible impacts to planned and future operations and training capabilities at 4 CDTC Meaford.”
While the DND has given the green light, with conditions, to the proposed facility being developed on their land, there has not yet been any agreement with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, who TC Energy says must offer their approval before the project would move forward.
“TC Energy will continue to consult with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and other Indigenous Rightsholders and communities, and engage with local communities and other interested stakeholders to assess potential impacts and economic benefits as the Company advances the next phase of project development – including provincial and federal environmental and impact assessments. Advancement of the project remains subject to a number of conditions, including approval of the Company’s Board of Directors, regulatory approvals, and assurances that the project would not impact military activities and training,” TC Energy advised.
“The Saugeen Ojibway Nation and TC Energy have been in consultation regarding a potential co-development and joint ownership arrangement on the project. With a Pathways Agreement in place, we are collaborating on the assessment of potential environmental impacts and economic benefits for our communities. We will continue to work in the spirit of collaboration with TC Energy through the environmental, social and economic assessment aspects towards a Community decision on the project in the future,” explained Chief Lester Anoquot, Chippewas of Saugeen and Councillor (acting Chief) Anthony Chegahno, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.