Save Georgian Bay Group continues to oppose planned pumped storage energy facility

(John Chippa file photo for BlackburnNews.com)

An Environmental Consultant with Save Georgian Bay is speaking out against ongoing efforts by TC Energy for a long term contract from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to build a pumped storage energy at the Department of National Defence lands in Meaford. The IESO is the Crown corporation responsible for operating the electricity market in the province.

Save Georgian Bay Consultant and volunteer, Bruce Rodgers, explained the system will draw 20 million cubic meters of water from Georgian Bay every night, and dump it back in the bay to generate electricity. However, he stated the plant will use 30% more energy than it generates.

Rodgers said the IESO Gate One Evaluation of the project found TCE’s proposal did not provide sufficient value to Ontario’s electricity consumers, but the Minister of Energy asked the project be advanced to the next stage of approval anyway. Rodgers added the Minister of Energy asked the IESO to advance the Meaford project, along with two other pump storage projects, to Gate 2 of the approval process.

He added the request specifically states “Should the proponents of these projects make significant improvements to the ratepayer value of the projects including through improved financing, I will consider moving it beyond Gate 2.”

Rodgers pointed out the project will cost $4.3 billion to generate 1,000 MW of power. He explained the project would equal savings of $11 a person per year. He says you could save more if you exchanged a single incandescent bulb with an LED.

A media release from Save Georgian Bay said many residents were disappointed when the Department of National Defence (DND) reached an agreement with TC Energy (TransCanada Pipeline) to lease its land for a pumped storage plant (PSP). However, the release stated the project is far from approved and has a long way to go before it can become a reality.

The group reported, “The proposed PSP will pump 20 million cubic meters of water per day from Georgian Bay to an uphill, man-made reservoir in the Niagara Escarpment, located on DND land. The water will generate electricity on its downhill return to the bay.”

Rodgers explained, “The other pumped storage project being considered by the IESO that was advanced to Gate 2, the Marmora PSP, is a closed-loop system located at an abandoned mine site. This PSP will revitalize a brownfield site and enhance the environment. In contrast, TC Energy is proposing an open-loop system that will harm the pristine land and waters of the Niagara Escarpment and Georgian Bay. Every night it will draw 20 million cubic meters of water from Georgian Bay, along with everything that lives within.

Rodgers added TC Energy claims they have ‘mitigated’ this harm in their design. But he pointed out mitigate merely means to lessen the gravity of an offense or mistake. he said the design will still harm the aquatic ecosystem within the bay.

Meantime, Rodgers said, “the IESO entered into a 10-year energy contract for the Oneida Battery Storage project. IESO advanced the Oneida project to Gate 3 at the same time that it rejected TC Energy’s proposal at Gate 1. This demonstrates the economic and technological viability of battery storage. The capital cost for the Oneida project is approximately $500,000/MWh, in comparison with a capital cost for TC Energy’s PSP which is closer to $600,000/MWh. Oneida is also 95% to 98% efficient, while the Georgian Bay PSP is only 70% efficient (it uses 30% more energy than it generates).”

The IESO has until January 2023 to complete their Gate 2 evaluation. Rodgers encouraged residents to send their comments to Todd Smith, Minister of Energy as well as their local MP and MPP.