Ontario pumped energy storage project progresses with ministerial direction

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Georgian Bay
TC Energy, which classifies the project as a climate change initiative, is conducting a number of preliminary field studies at the proposed project site, such as soil sampling and geotechnical drilling, to support the project’s feasibility assessment. Graphic: TC Energy Corporation

TC Energy Corporation’s plan to provide 1,000 megawatts to Ontario’s electricity grid through pumped hydro storage is set to form a long-term revenue framework, as the province outlines the project’s next steps.

Using water and gravity, TC Energy explains that pumped storage acts like a “giant battery” that stores excess electricity by pumping water from Georgian Bay to an upper reservoir through a turbine when demand is low, then making the stored energy available when demand spikes.

If developed, the facility for the $4.5-billion project would be co-located on the existing Canadian Army’s 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, north of Meaford, about 143 km north of Toronto, in the territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

TC Energy states that it would be Ontario’s largest energy storage project, storing enough clean electricity to power one million homes for 11 hours, once developed by the early 2030s.

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Known as the Ontario Pumped Storage Project, TC Energy and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, its prospective partner, are now working with the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Energy Board to establish a potential long-term revenue framework for the project.

“The Minister’s direction to advance this Project is a strong signal that the work TC Energy and Saugeen Ojibway Nation are doing is important,” announced Annesley Wallace, TC Energy executive VP of strategy and corporate development.

Wallace added that the province’s response to the project “recognizes the critical role that pumped hydro storage will have in enhancing the diversity of Ontario’s supply mix and achieving a net-zero electricity grid.”

The Georgian Bay Association, which says it aims to ensure the stewardship of the greater Georgian Bay environment, has spoken out against the energy storage project. The association called the project inefficient and suggests that it relies on the use of outdated battery technology compared to battery technology currently available. In a post to its website, the association also suggests that the project will incorporate tunnels installed beneath the lakebed that could put soil, water and wildlife at risk.

TC Energy, which classifies the project as a climate change initiative, is conducting a number of preliminary field studies at the proposed project site, such as soil sampling and geotechnical drilling, to support the project’s feasibility assessment.

Another environmental advocacy group, Save Georgian Bay, has also been critical of the project’s potential threat to local ecosystems, and skeptical of its true carbon-offset potential. It too has criticized the project’s efficiency, which is around 75% efficient according to TC Energy, suggesting that the loss of energy is enough to power a city the size of nearby Barrie — population 148,000.

Meaford officials have been supportive of the project. Mayor Ross Kentner has been on record that he “recognizes the significant stimulus a project like this would have on the local economy,” as the project is expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs, according to TC Energy.

TC Energy will provide a new report to the minister for the project during summer 2024.

Watch: Ontario Pumped Storage Project — Overview

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