Some time ago I wrote about an abandoned open pit mine at Marmora, Ontario, northeast of where I live in Toronto. I have visited this site, seen in the picture below, on many occasion when traveling from Toronto to Eastern Ontario. It is truly an awesome experience to drive to the edge of this human engineered hole in the ground.
Each time I visited I wondered what plans were in store for this open scar in the earth, some 213 meters deep surrounded by 70 million tons of waste rock towering as high as a 12-storey building. The head from the top of the waste rock to the bottom of the quarry is 3 to 4 times the height of the 53 meter drop at Niagara Falls, the single largest source of hydroelectricity in Ontario.
What Northland Power, a company based in Toronto, is proposing to do is use a combination pump generator to provide electricity to the grid by taking energy from the grid during low usage periods to pump water from the depths of the quarry to an above ground reservoir with an average head of 140 meters (459 feet). During the day when demand peaked the water flow would be reversed using the same pipe but this time instead of using power it would generate 400 Megawatts of it.
Ontario has been eliminating coal as a power source with the last large coal-powered generator ceasing to operate by the end of this year. The result, Ontario will rely on a mix of nuclear heavy water, hydroelectric, natural gas, wind and solar to meet daily demands. The province has invested heavily in wind. Capacity stands today at 1,700 Megawatts with plans to grow to 7,800 Megawatts by 2018. A stored energy system like the $700 million hydroelectric Marmora project would offset the variability and intermittency that comes with wind. In addition pumped storage would be a zero carbon emission technology and would be used to stabilize demand and supply smoothing total power available across the grid at any time.
Project costs for Marmora are estimated at $700 million, a fraction of what it would cost to bring on additional nuclear power capacity and the timelines to go live would be dramatically shorter. The repurposing of the mine would revitalize the local economy and put back into use an area that lies abandoned and desolate. What will the new Marmora site look like? Check out the picture below. The pit is on the left with the reservoir to its right.
Is the Marmora project unique? No. There are literally hundreds of abandoned open pit mines where similar pumped storage generation could take place. And pumped storage is only one technology option in an arsenal of new storage concepts that include molten salt, compressed air, flywheels and next-generation chemical batteries. You can check out one of my previous postings on the subject.
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Exactly 80 years ago today, city streets across the United States went into celebratory mode: President Roosevelt had just signed a repeal of the prohibition on alcohol. On Dec. 5, 2013, however, a new challenge is under way against another set of U.S. prohibition laws. And the arena isn’t just the United States, but the entire globe. The present-day forbidden fruit: illegal drugs.
December 5, 2013 - At this blog site we have looked at artificially-induced vortices as a novel approach to generating energy, but this one seems less like science fiction, a technology that captures wind from any direction and funnels and compresses it to drive a generator.
December 5, 2013 - You have to admire Jeff Bezos for what my culture calls chutzpa. He has been in the headlines twice in the last week. First with a proposal to start shipping goods from Amazon to customers using drones. And second, successfully firing his new Blue Origin rocket engine at the Van Horn, Texas test facility. The latter simulated a suborbital mission.
Every time I delete spam from my inbox, I feel a tiny piece of my life flitter away. Sitting needlessly at stoplights, or watching the minutes tick away as I wait in some line, or being forced to fill out yet another form, our precious time is being coopted by everyone from inconsiderate businesses, to overbearing government, to painful security checks at the airport. This is what I call “time pollution.”
December 4, 2013 - The El Nino and La Nina or Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are expected to become more exaggerated as temperatures rise here on Earth.
December 4, 2013 - SpaceX, the private company founded by Elon Musk, has achieved a number of milestones in the last few weeks. These include:
- completion of the first series of Grasshopper test flights in which this vertical takeoff and landing launcher went through its paces achieving an altitude of 744 meters (2,440 feet) before returning to its launch pad.
December 4, 2013 - Truly a stocking stuffer the Sensoria socks contain sensors that along with a small ankle-wearing electronic bracelet that communicates with your smartphone will help you as as a jogger or power walker track speed, distance, altitude and ca
November 3, 2013 - Brigham Young University (BYU) and NASA have combined with an origami expert to come up with a new way of folding larger solar arrays into rocket payloads to deliver more power to the International Space Station (ISS) and other sp