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.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
KEEP UP WITH WFS NEWS & UPCOMING EVENTS
July 30, 2015 - One of my readers who follows my blog through LinkedIn admonished me a couple of weeks ago for being too critical of the fossil fuel industry.
July 28, 2015 - If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have read about the importance of our research into stem cells and their therapeutic value. I'm even contemplating having my stem cells harvested to inject into my osteoarthritic left knee to help restore the cartilage I have lost over the years.
July 26, 2015 - Three farm stories caught my eye this week. The first, a truly revolutionary one that pushes back the dawn of the age of agriculture some 11,000 years. The second, a GMO story featuring a new rice that produces less greenhouse gas. And the third, a Harvard study about declining zinc levels in food because of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
July 25, 2015 - Space has been big in the news in the last week. From the latest Pluto images to the discovery of a potential Earth-twin exoplanet, to new observations about the bright spots on the dwarf planet/asteroid Ceres, to Curiosity's latest findings.
July 23, 2015 - Sea ice volume is a different measure than sea ice extent. Volume looks at the thickness of the ice as well as the area of coverage. Extent is just about the latter. When the European Space Agency (ESA) launched CryoSat-2 in 2010, scientists for the first time were able to gauge volume and in the first two years of observation it was in decline.
July 22, 2015 - In his latest email blast Peter Diamandis talks about children and education beginning with the statement "How do you raise kids today during these exponential times?" Unfamiliar with therm "exponential times?" Then visit the website Exponential Times: The Future Comes Faster Than You Think.
July 21, 2015 - In an update sent out by the company yesterday, SpaceX described the events pertaining to the 19th launch of its Falcon 9 rocket which blew up in a second stage mishap at 2 minutes, 19 seconds into the flight on July 2, 2015.