There are currently three pumped storage projects going through the planning and approvals process, that would add approximately 2,000 MW of electricity to the grid. Developing that same Installed Capacity from small hydroelectric projects would involve 200 – 10 MW proposals that would cause untold environmental damage to dozens of Ontario rivers. It is imperative the province does not rush or over-reach its targets and develop new electricity projects unnecessarily.
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
220.127.116.11 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.
 Hydroelectric Generation in Ontario, OPA, Supply Mix Advice, P82-83, Sec. 18.104.22.168 Classes of Hydroelectric Generating Stations, OPA
This proposal has a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) contract which pays a 50% peaking bonus for all power generated. FIT Contracts have a 40 year term. Projects with FIT contracts cannot be told to stop generating if Ontario has a surplus of power – they get paid for all power generated whether it is required or not. Proposed to produce 2.1 MW Installed Capacity, which with seasonal flows will more realistically produce 50% of that – approximately 1 MW of power.
ORA has made a Part II Order request to the Minister of Environment to elevate this proposal to an Individual Environmental Assessment – a much more rigorous environmental assessment. Awaiting MOE response.
Published: 14 March 2014
“It is ORA’s submission that Xeneca’s approach falls far short of their claims in many key aspects of this ER, and does its best to sell the reader on the project, with an approach of convincing the reader to just trust them, let them build it, and then through monitoring and adaptive management during pre and post construction the riverine ecosystem will be just fine. This approach is not acceptable.” Read more below:
A company named WaterPower Group held a public meeting, in October of 2012, for members of the Capreol Business Association, Capreol Community Action Network, and members of the Town at the Millenium Centre. This proponent proposes to build a hydroelectric dam on the Vermilion River at Cedar Rapids.
To read an article, go to page 15 of The Capreol Press – October 1, 2012 – No. 87.
The photos below are of the area that is proposed to be dammed – Cedar Rapids on the Vermilion River.
MOECC Decision Notice – 5 October 2016: Following the posting of the Proposal Notice on the Environmental Registry, the Ministry decided not to move forward with Coordinated Policy Guidance for Waterpower Projects after considering EBR comments and having discussions both internally and with stakeholders. MOECC continues to look for ways to modernize and improve approvals and permitting for Waterpower Projects in a way that is fully protective of human health and the environment.
MOECC Proposal: The proposed Coordinated Policy Guidance for Waterpower Projects has been developed by MNR and MOE to clarify roles and responsibilities. The proposed Guidance document provides clarification of Ministry specific roles and responsibilities for waterpower projects, in reviewing and issuing authorizations. This proposed policy guidance does not alter the powers or duties of either ministry in their administration of any Act or regulation. Ontario Rivers Alliance and Robert MacGregor made the following submissions on this posting: Continue reading
Excerpt: “This project has not been planned in an environmentally responsible manner, and has not fully taken into account the interests of local stakeholders and the public. Therefore, it is our position that for all the reasons noted herein, Xeneca has not fulfilled its requirements under the Class EA for Waterpower.”
ORA and our members have repeatedly met with resistance and secrecy from developers who are relying on the assurances of a pre-approved environmental assessment process – telephone calls not returned, information not provided, and consistently told by developers that “you can’t stop the project – it is a done deal”.
It is unacceptable that the public has had to deal with such arrogance, resistance, deception, and an overall lack of disclosure of vital aspects of the project until the ER is issued. Our members have used the formal Freedom of Information process to obtain relevant details, only to be met with an appeal by the proponent when ordered to provide the documentation.
This attitude has created an environment of mistrust which in the end only delays and lengthens the process.”
Minister of the Environment has confirmed the Director’s decision to deny the requests to elevate the Bala Falls hydroelectric proposal to an Individual Environmental Assessment.
Wabagishik Rapids is a beautiful 1 km stretch of rapids on the Vermilion River, about 1/2 hour west of Sudbury, Ontario. A developer is proposing to build a modified run of river hydroelectric dam that would produce enough power to supply about 1,600 homes. These types of dams have numerous negative impacts associated with them, and are very harmful to the riverine ecosystem. Check out this film to find out more.
Full length film:
Short – 13 Minute Version:
Short 3 Minute preview of the full version:
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