TC Energy Proposed Hydro-Pumped Storage Facility

=> Design Change Updates Coming Soon

TC Energy (TCE), formerly TransCanada Pipeline, has received permission to do a feasibility study for an open loop system Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Plant (PSP) on the federally owned shoreline of the Department of National Defense (DND) Training Centre in Meaford. This proposed facility has serious and potentially harmful implications for local communities, the environment and Georgian Bay’s aquatic ecosystem.

Proposed Site Plan at 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, Meaford

Proposed Site Plan 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, Meaford

What is Pumped Storage?

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity, or pumped hydroelectric energy storage, is a type of hydroelectric energy storage used by electric power systems for load balancing. The method stores energy in the form of gravitational potential energy of water, pumped from a lower elevation to a higher elevation.

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The TCE project proposes an “Open Loop System” versus a “Closed Looped System”. An open looped system requires a man made upper reservoir and a natural water source (in our case Georgian Bay) to draw water from. A closed loop system does not require a natural body of water as it utilizes an upper and a lower reservoir to move the water up and down. Closed looped systems are less environmentally devastating and are usually built within an abandoned mine or quarry to avoid destruction of forestry, habitant, ecosystems etc. found on land and in natural water.

The TCE-PSP proposal will require approximately 500 acres of land and will extend 650 meters out into Geogian Bay. A 375 acre man made reservoir will be partially excavated into the escarpment and will have a 20m high (67ft) embankment dam surrounding its perimeter. The reservoir is estimated to be 1.7km long. Water from Georgian Bay, 23 million cubic meters (over 6 billion gallons), will be pumped approx. 150m up the escarpment through intake turbines to the reservoir/dam to be temporarily stored. It will then be released back into Georgian Bay to generate electricity which will be transferred to the power grid near Barrie. This drawing and releasing of water will repeat every 24 hours (11 hours to fill/8 hours to release).

In their recent design “concept”, TCE is proposing to build the powerhouse and inlet/outlet structure deep into the escarpment and out into the bay beneath the lakebed. There will be a switchyard and control room built on grade which will transfer the electricity to the grid in Essa County. There are 2 options to transfer the energy. One is to use an undersea cable that will go from Meaford to Wasaga Beach, then to the Stayner Transfer Station where it will then connect to the grid in Essa County. The second option is to build a new power corridor on land that will go from Meaford to Essa County.

Pumped Storage Project: Why Are We Concerned?

The proposed pumped storage project by TC Energy threatens to cause significant disruption and permanent changes to the existing natural habitat. Save Georgian Bay is concerned that the technology being proposed will cause fish mortality, water turbidity, water and air pollution during the construction phase, and will require the installation of high tension power lines from Meaford to Essa Township near Barrie. We believe there are many better alternatives that should be considered in place of the current one.

This Plant Is NOT “Green”

  • Technology is available that is 90% efficient at storing energy; TCE’s proposal is only 70% efficient. This means the plant uses more energy when it pumps water up the escarpment than it produces. The 30% loss of energy is enough to power a city the size of Barrie.
  • TCE’s claim that it will reduce CO2 emissions by 490,000 tonnes per year is misleading. That saving will only happen if they don’t construct a natural gas power plant instead, which would emit 500,000 tonnes per year. TCE claims a credit for a reduction in C02 emissions simply because they forgo building a gas plant.
  • TCE is using an accounting driven justification for the project, as the plant will be based on the price difference between peak and off-peak energy rates. It will be storing electricity when it’s less expensive and selling it back to the Ontario rate payer when it’s more expensive.
  • TCE claims that night time energy is currently “wasted” but that extra energy is currently exported to the United States to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, which is a good thing!
  • The clear cutting of forest for the reservoir and possible sections of high tension transmission wires will further contribute to a CO2 increase.
  • The proposed plant is modeled after the Ludington, Michigan PSP, an open-loop system that kills millions of fish, even after mitigation measures have been put into place. Mitigation never equals elimination.
  • TCE falsely claims the PSP will offset the closure of Pickering Nuclear. Pickering is a net producer of baseload electricity, whereas this PSP is intended to provide load balancing and is a net consumer of electricity.

Impact on the Environment

  • Approximately 500 acres of forest destroyed and its inhabitants displaced
  • 375 acre man made partially excavated reservoir with a 20m high embankment dam around its perimeter will be cut into the escarpment. The dam will be built above hundreds of existing homes, cottages and farms.
  • The intake area will be at Blackpoint within Seagull Cove and will draw 23 million cubic meters of water (6+billion gallons) out of the bay and release it each and every day for the next 50 years.
  • The offshore intake area will entrap and kill fish and destroy spawning areas and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Water will be pumped in and out of the bay every day creating constant water turbidity and affecting quality of water. The reservoir will take approx. 11 hours to fill and 8 hours to release.
  • NEW on land high voltage transmission line corridor required from Meaford to Barrie or an underwater cable route from Meaford to make land at Wasaga Beach.
  • Noise, water, light and air pollution during and after construction along with possible on-site cement production.

Impact on the Local Community

  • Residents to endure four or more years of construction and strain on infrastructure.
  • Concern about dug wells (will residents have water?) and shoreline wells (will the water be safe to drink?)
  • Water turbidity and natural currents will affect the shoreline for miles (will our town water be safe?)
  • A partially excavated man-made reservoir 20m (67 feet) high perimeter embankment dam will be built above existing homes and neighborhoods (that’s the size of 284 football fields and as high as a 5 story building)
  • TCE boasts this project will provide 800 jobs over 4 years – but most of these will be transient workers. There will only be 12-15 permanent jobs.
  • Our local labor force will be further depleted, putting a strain on local businesses.
  • Potential loss of tourism. Will tourists want to visit, swim or fish in the bay?

Other Considerations Affecting Meaford and Surrounding Communities

Fish Population and Aquatic Ecosystems

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The impact on fish population and aquatic ecosystems can be devastating. Safety nets will only keep out most, but not all, larger fish from being sucked up by the turbines. Smaller fish including baitfish, as well as other important organisms in the Great Lakes food chain, such as phytoplankton and small fresh water crustaceans, will be drawn into the turbines. Studies have shown that white fish spawning grounds and shoreline bird habitats and nesting grounds are very sensitive to environmental changes.

Georgian Bay Turbidity

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The daily massive flow of water back into Georgian Bay will cause water turbidity, stirring up the clay lake bottom, mudding the pristine clear waters of Meaford and surrounding areas. Strong currents and wave motion can distribute this cloudiness even further to neighbouring communities’ shorelines. The effect this will have on shoreline bird habitats and the aquatic ecosystem will be devastating. The expected 4 year construction period will cause a major disruption to the lake bottom potentially distributing murky, churned up water all along the Georgian Bay shoreline.

Expropriation of July 1942

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“My ancestors were told the land would be used for training purposes only and that they could buy the land back after the war, but this clause turned out to be non-binding. If the Department of National Defence were to make land that was expropriated for training available to TC Energy for their pumped storage facility (instead of using it for anything but training as originally promised), I and other descendants of those landowners would consider it a huge slap in the face of those farmers and fishers who were forced to give up their land at a difficult time and under difficult circumstances”. (Excerpt from open letter of descendent).