Tag Archives: electric

Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario – OPA Definitions

Serpent River – Run-of-River

A major challenge with hydroelectric in Ontario is that there are no consistent definitions.  Many hydroelectric facilities are referred to as Run-of-River when they are in fact cycling or peaking facilities.  Below are some good definitions which should be incorporated by government in their policy and legislation.   Just keep in mind that because they call it run-of-river it doesn’t mean it is – it is most likely a Peaking plant described under “Storage” here.  Peaking facilities using headponds (pondage) allow for power generation and profits to be maximized; however, the environmental and health and safety impacts can be severe:

3.6 Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario Classes of Hydroelectric Generating Stations

Hydroelectric installations can be classified into three basic types.  These are:

  • Storage or Pondage plants (sometimes known as “peaking” plants)
  • Run-of-the-River plants
  • Pumped Storage plants

Some of the characteristics of these types are discussed below.

Storage or Pondage (Peaking) Plants:  At many hydroelectric plants, production economics can be enhanced by storing water in the head pond (forebay) for a limited number of hours.  This is normally done by partially or completely shutting the plant down (i.e., stopping the water flow) overnight or on weekends, when the demand for electricity is light.  The stored water is used during the peak load period of the following day.  This type of operation is called peaking and is carried out routinely on most large power systems.

Peaking power installations are characterized by proportionally large units (in terms of discharge capability) and relatively small forebays (storage capability).  They an only sustain continuous generation for a few hours a day before they start running out of water and need additional inflow from upstream reservoirs.  Forebays of peaking installations must have large operating ranges, which has impacts on the use and environment of the shoreline of the reservoir.  As well, the environment downstream of the plant must be protected against wide fluctuations in discharge flow.

Run-of-the-River Plants:  Some plants are not suited to peaking operations because they do not have adequate forebay storage capacity and/or their discharge capacity must match the streamflow of the river they are on.  Some examples are plants located on a waterway where shipping interests and other considerations impose restrictions on such peaking operation and where the river flow must be passed on downstream in a more uniform manner.

Run-of-the-river installations are usually low-head and their operation, which is often classified as base load, does not follow the economics of supplying the load, but rather the variations of the river flow over time.  Water management at this type of installation is often based on established “rule curves”.

Pumped Storage Plants:  A Pumped storage generating station (PGS) represents a logical complement to load-following operations that are carried out elsewhere on a power system.  A PGS time-shifts energy production by storing energy in the form of water.  At night when demand and the cost for power are low, water is diverted from a lower river or lake and is pumped up into a storage reservoir with electric motors.  The water is let back down from that reservoir through a set of turbo-generators when the energy is ready to be sold (and used) during periods of high value or need.

Electricity used for the pumping operation is obtained from the system during periods of low demand.  This carries an economic penalty in that it takes about 30% more energy to pump the water uphill to the reservoir than can be generated when the time comes to let it back down through the turbines.  In addition, there is uncontrolled consumption of that water while it is in the reservoir, through evaporation.

PGS plants are not new.  These generating stations are used extensively to time-shift energy production on a daily or weekly basis – away from weekends and into high demand weekday peak hours.  One example is the PGS at OPG’s Sir Adam Beck complex at Niagara Falls.  Another is at the Robert Moses installation across the river in Lewiston, NY.  One of the world’s largest PGS installations is located at Ludington, Michigan, relatively close to the Ontario-Michigan border.[1]

[1] Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario, OPA, Supply Mix Advice, P82-83, Sec. Classes of Hydroelectric Generating Stations, OPA

Proposed Hydroelectric Generating Station at the Bala Falls

Bala Falls Portage

Posted 8 March 2014

There is a lot at stake in a battle that has gone on for close to a decade.  Through a “Competitive Site Release” in 2004 the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) made some Crown land available south of the Bala north falls for the development of a hydro-electric generating station (Bala is north-west of Gravenhurst). The MNR is very motivated to see this happen, as not only would it help fulfill the province’s mandate for additional power generation from renewable energy sources, but MNR staff would also no longer need to adjust stop-logs to regulate water flows and levels, or be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the Bala north and south dams – instead, the proponent would have these responsibilities. Unfortunately, the MNR appears to be so motivated that they have shown little concern for the many negative impacts on fish spawning and other habitat problems that would be created.

In 2005 a proponent was awarded “Applicant of Record” status, and since then has proposed at least three different configurations, all of which would also create major public safety and economic problems.

SaveTheBalaFalls.com, the local cottager association, and the public have therefore been actively engaged both in the process and also in ensuring the appropriate government Ministries, agencies, and politicians are presented with the many outstanding concerns and issues.

One major issue is that the Bala Falls landscape is central to Bala and the surrounding area’s recreation and tourism economy as the falls are very visible and accessible, and are the main focus of visits – including literally bus-loads of tourists in the summer. They come to view the falls, to climb on the rocks, and to play in the usually serene water at the base of the falls. There are also residences within 200 feet, as well as long-time and very popular public in-water recreation that occurs within 50 feet, both upstream and downstream of the proposed generating station and the treacherously turbulent water it would create.

Another major issue is that the proposed project would obstruct a traditional and historic Portage, which is still in use. As a result of a request by the MNR, written historical proof was provided to confirm that this Portage was in use prior to the initial Crown land patent, and Section 65(4) of the Public Lands Act prohibits such obstruction. In May 2013 the MNR unilaterally declared that this land was suddenly too dangerous for the public to access – even though their own 2011 Public Safety Measures Plan for this exact area had no such concerns. We have responded with reasons why this proposed project would still be illegal under the Public Lands Act, and await a response on this complicated topic.

Two years ago, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) told us that in the ten years the current legislation has been in place, there have been more than 50 requests to elevate different proposed hydro-electric generation proposals to an Individual Environmental Assessment. Such further study is the required first step to having any chance of an Environmental Assessment (EA) approval being denied. But the MOE has denied EVERY ONE of these 50 requests. That is, there has never been a “Part II Order” request for elevation approved. This places the fairness and efficacy of the entire EA process in question.

The current situation for the proposed Bala project is that not only are major approvals still required from all four levels of government, but there are legal challenges as well.

And SaveTheBalaFalls.com and the community will continue to ask; would it be safe, would it be beautiful, and would there be enough water over the falls to continue to draw people to Bala. We still don’t have answers, so we continue to ensure decision-makers know the problems.

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Experimental Lakes Research in Kenora Reveals just how Dirty Hydroelectric Really Is – Groundbreaking Information

Harper seals our fate on water and energy sustainability

By Emma Lui | March 5, 2013
Note:  This is an excerpt of the original article – access by clicking here.

The federal government states that Fisheries and Oceans Canada no longer need to do this type of research. And yet when we look at the research being conducted at the ELA, the scientific data is sorely needed for a sustainable energy strategy.

One ELA study assesses the effects of hydroelectric development. Hydroelectric dams are often touted as a ‘clean’ energy solution. However, the ELA study raises questions about whether hydroelectric dams have similar impacts as burning fossil fuels.

“There’s a new idea around that reservoirs may be significant sources of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. And we want to test that idea, ”says Drew Bodaly, Research Scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in this Experimental Lakes video (see below). Continue reading