We appreciate the ongoing interest in the Ontario Pumped Storage Project and welcome the diversity of opinion amongst your readers. An important aspect of our work is engaging with community members to ensure they have the information they need so they can provide valuable input into our planning process. It’s our view that this direct input results in better projects and stronger relationships. With respect to comments by Mike McTaggert, published on November 23, 2023, we have the following thoughts.
Mr. McTaggert is correct, pumped storage is a prevalent technology – facilities have been operating successfully for more than 100 years. But just as with computers, phones, and cars, pumped storage technology has advanced significantly, and the Ontario Pumped Storage Project is implementing and using the most advanced state-of-the-art technology that is virtually unrecognizable from its predecessors. Several countries continue to develop and incorporate pumped storage into their energy solutions due to its highly reliable, long-life storage benefits, and its effectiveness as a large-scale, long-duration electricity storage solution.
With respect to Mr. McTaggert’s comment regarding battery storage – the cost and environmental footprint to replicate this energy storage project using batteries would be significantly higher when the overall lifecycle impact is contemplated (mining, manufacturing, installation, replacement, and disposal). Batteries do have important roles in the future electricity system (typically for shorter durations), but pumped storage is the most economic and environmentally responsible solution to meeting Ontario’s bulk system storage needs. For comparison, the largest lithium-ion battery in the world is 300 megawatts and has four-hours of storage capacity. The Ontario Pumped Storage project is 1000 megawatts, storing enough clean electricity to power one million homes for 11 hours. It’s our view that both pumped storage and batteries are needed in our complex energy grids.
The design of Ontario Pumped Storage is very different than the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, as a result of our review of this facility and the feedback we have received from the community. We have effectively placed all major facilities, except the reservoir, underground or underwater to address issues that were raised through our engagement. Ontario Pumped Storage will not create lakebed turbidity because its innovative design ensures water will flow through multiple, raised, deep water lakebed inlet and outlet ports at a very slow speed, similar to Georgian Bay’s natural currents. The inlet/outlet ports are designed to flow water horizontally, 360 degrees, to be consistent with the natural environment and water currents in Georgian Bay, preventing disturbance of lakebed sediment.
Protection of Georgian Bay, protection of fish, and being stewards of the lands and waters are our top priorities. We understand the urgency of protecting fish and fish habitat and have made significant changes to the design of the inlet/outlet system through which water flows into and out of Georgian Bay. The inlet/outlet design incorporates screens and very slow water movement to prevent fish from entering the structures. We have been conducting extensive seasonal aquatic studies since the fall of 2020 to establish an ideal inlet/outlet location that minimizes exposure to valuable fish habitat, and also ensuring mitigation measures, such as screens and water flows, are effective at protecting fish. Once completed, we will share the results of these studies, and they will be included in the upcoming environmental impact assessment for public review and feedback.
Safety is a top concern for both citizens of Meaford as well as TC Energy. You have our commitment that this project will be designed to keep everyone safe. Ontario Pumped Storage will be built, maintained, and operated safely. What we are proposing is not without precedent – there are two pumped storage facilities with reservoirs in Niagara that have operated safely for decades. The Sir Adam Beck Pump Generating Station is an example of a pumped hydro project where the reservoir sits 50 meters from the nearest residential home. The community of Queenston, Ontario, lies directly below. The reservoir is twice the area of what we are proposing at Meaford (750 acres versus 375 acres) and has been operating safely since 1957.
TC Energy has engaged unexploded explosive ordnance experts to conduct detailed studies of the project area. Should any unexploded explosive ordnances be located within the project area, clearance activities would be required before any construction activities begin. The data we collect will be provided in the upcoming assessment process and will be reviewed by regulators. Any environmental concerns must be fully addressed before this project moves forward.
From the start of this project, we have been committed to listening to feedback from Meaford residents. When we first introduced the project, we received concerns about the preservation of Georgian Bay and the local environment. We used that feedback to make significant project design changes to maximize protection of the ecosystem, the local environment, and Georgian Bay. We look forward to continuing to engage with you as the project progresses.
John Mikkelsen, P.Eng. M.A.Sc.