TC Energy’s efforts to keep local councils up-to-date on the status of its pumped storage proposal in Meaford rolled into Markdale recently.

Herb Shields, external engagement team lead, for TC Energy, spoke to Grey Highlands council at its meeting on Dec. 21. Shields provided council with an overview of the proposed project and the process the company is currently engaged in to advance the concept.

The company is proposing a large-scale energy storage facility on lands in Meaford used by the Department of National Defence as a military training centre. Their proposal would construct a reservoir at the base that would be 30 metres deep and cover about 375 acres. Water would be pumped up from Georgian Bay,  using electricity from the grid during off-peak hours, through 20 different intake/outflow pipes that stick out above the lakebed from tunnels buried under the lakebed. The water would be released and, using gravity, would flow back to the bay, generating electricity during peak demand times through the process of the water flowing back into the bay. Potentially, the reservoir could be filled and emptied every day using water from Lake Huron.

The project includes a large battery to store the energy generated in order to release that power to the grid when it is needed most. The battery would store 1,000 megawatts of electricity, which is enough energy to power approximately one million homes for eight hours.

“Think of it as a very large electricity insurance policy for Ontario,” said Shields.

The proposal includes an underwater transmission line to property in Wasaga Beach. A further underground transmission line would be needed from Wasaga Beach to a transformer station in Stayner.

Shields told council that the design of the proposal has undergone extensive changes due to public feedback from local residents in Meaford and environmental groups.

“There have been many reiterations of this design,” said Shields. “It has radically changed over the years because of that feedback.”

Shields said the project has just begun the federal environmental assessment process, which is expected to last at least three years. In addition to the federal process, there are also provincial assessments that must be completed as well. If approved, construction is expected to take four years.

“It is a long way away,” said Shields.

TC Energy estimates it will spend $4.5 billion on the project if it is built. 

Deputy mayor Dane Nielsen asked how efficient the system is, noting that it would use power to generate the power to be stored in the battery. Shields said the system is approximately 75 – 78 per cent efficient. Meaning it returns about 75 per cent of the power it uses back to the grid.

Coun. Tom Allowood asked about the project’s status with Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). Shields said the IESO has three gates a project must clear to be granted approval the pumped storage proposal is currently in gate two. He said that TC Energy is hopeful that gate three discussions will start early in 2023.

Coun. Paul Allen asked about public concerns about the project.

Shields said TC Energy has received a lot of public feedback about the proposal.

“The residents in Meaford had a lot of concerns and questions,” he said.

Some of the concerns raised included: visual impacts, fish habitat impacts, impacts on Georgian Bay and the close proximity of local homes to the reservoir.

Shields said TC Energy has taken the concerns into consideration with redesigns of the proposal and has formed a community liaison committee to hear feedback. He also said the project must follow the highest standards in the world to be approved.

“The process is robust,” he said.

By Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 24, 2022 at 12:30

This item reprinted with permission from   Collingwood, Ontario

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