Once developed, TC’s Pumped Storage Project will save Ontario ratepayers $250 million a year. And it will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by around 500,000 tonnes a year.
Ontario gets its electricity supply from several sources, including nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, and gas-fired power plants. “But with wind and solar providing power at unpredictable times, the province typically has excess supply at night, while relying on natural gas generation to meet peak demand during the day.” (Source: Canadian Energy Centre. May 2020.). There’s limited large scale energy storage in the province to save that excess energy, so Ontario sells it at a loss to other provinces and to U.S. states. Or, if there’s no one interested in buying it, the energy goes to waste.
TC Energy’s Pumped Storage Project proposed for Meaford, Ontario will store excess electricity for use at peak times. Here’s how it will work.
Late at night, when demand for electricity is low, the project will pump water uphill from Georgian Bay to a storage reservoir located on land owned by the Canadian military. When demand is high during the day, the company will release that water back into the lake through turbines, generating up to 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power.
“The Pumped Storage Project is one of the largest climate change initiatives in Canada right now,” says Jennifer Link, Senior Communication Specialist at TC Energy. “It will reduce GHG emissions by an amount that’s equivalent to taking around 150 thousand cars a year off the roads. It will also be a versatile and flexible support for the Ontario electricity system. So, for example, if there’s a power outage, it can release water very quickly to bring power generation back online.”
Link says although the Pumped Storage Project is at the concept stage, TC Energy is already out talking with the Meaford community, well ahead of the regulatory schedule. (Meaford is a municipality of about ten thousand people.) The company is also consulting and working closely with the Department of National Defence as the project will have to co-exist with their Meaford training facilities.
“Because we’re very early in the process, we can include community input into the project’s design,” says Link. “In fact, we’ve already changed three major design elements to address community feedback.”
A local economic study conducted by ERM for TC Energy identified sizable local benefits. In fact, local spending during construction could amount to around $750 million. TC Energy expects the environmental assessment process to start by the end of 2020, with construction scheduled to begin in 2023 and completion targeted for 2028.
“If Canada is ever going to become carbon neutral, we need to be able to store clean electricity,” says Link. “The Pumped Storage Project will allow Ontario to use its existing electrical system in more effective and efficient ways, and at the same time reduce its GHG footprint.”
The Pumped Storage Project is another example of CEPA members’ commitment to balance Canada’s energy supply mix with green energy alternatives.
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