The Hoover Dam was built during a peak of precipitation of a very prolonged weather cycle, as were power dams along the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River. A prolonged weather cycle also affects precipitation in the watershed regions of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River system. It has reduced water levels at the Port of Montreal over a period of over a century as measurements indicate. However, the exact location on the graph of the prolonged weather pattern following the peak in precipitation for the watershed region of the Great Lakes is unknown.
The survival, well-being and prosperity of a very large population depends on water and electric from the Hoover Dam and the lower water levels require the implementation of new plans to manage the situation. Similarly, the survival, well-being and prosperity of a very large population depends on water and electric power from as well as ship navigation along the St Lawrence River system and the Great Lakes. There are, however a series of alternatives that may be applied to the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River system to manage the changes caused by the reduction in precipitation.
The Great Lakes may be compared a gigantic water tank with the Upper St Lawrence between Lake Ontario and Montreal be a water pipe. The Lower St Lawrence River between Montreal and the Gulf of St Lawrence would be the water outlet except that is without a faucet. The installation of a faucet along the outlet pipe may reduce water flow rate from the water tank. There is a proven method that was developed over 1000-years ago by which to install the equivalent of a faucet along the Lower St Lawrence River. The installation may allow for continued ship navigation, power generation and energy storage at various locations along the waterway system.
Faucet on the Lower St Lawrence River:
Over 1000-years ago, the engineers of the Mayan Empire built rock dams along the headwaters of numerous rivers to reduce both river velocity and the potential for flooding downstream. Such an approach may also reduce the water volume flow rate into the Gulf of St Lawrence. The equivalent of Mayan rock dams may be installed at 3-locations along the Lower St Lawrence River to reduce water flow volumes into the Gulf of St Lawrence.
The Sorel Islands form several narrow channels in the river some 60-miles to the east of Montreal. Submerged rock dams may be installed across several of these channels to simultaneously reduce water flow volumes and provide sufficient navigation depth for small recreational marine craft. There may even be potential to install kinetic turbines on several of the rock dams. The combination of conventional navigation locks and submerges underwater locks may be installed in the main navigation channel at the Sorel Islands. The conventional locks would operate mainly during warm weather while the submerged locks would operate mainly during winter.
Submerged Lock Doors:
Submerged lock doors that are raised and lowered by ballast may be installed on the river floor by transverse hinges. Lowering and raising the lock doors would provide passage to oceanic ships. Submerged lock doors may be installed in the main navigation channel at the Sorel Islands while the combination of such doors and rock dams may be installed between different piers at bridges across the St Lawrence River at Three Rivers (Trois Rivieres) and at Quebec City.
When raised, the submerged lock doors would reduce water flow volumes and provide sufficient clearance for large pieces of ice to flow across overhead and allow sufficient navigation depth for small marine craft. A rock dam installed at the eastern end of the Orleans Channel near Quebec City would reduce water flow volume rate, assure sufficient navigation depth for recreational watercraft in the north-side channel while affording sufficient navigation depth for ocean-going ships that sail along south-side navigation channel at Orleans Island.
Upper St Lawrence River:
While there are several small hydroelectric generating stations around Montreal, there 2 x main power dams are located along the Upper St Lawrence River and include the Beauharnois Dam (1800MW) and Les Cedres (Cedars) Power Dam (135MW) to the southwest of Montreal plus the Moses-Saunders International power dam (1600MW+) near Massena NY. Lower water levels upstream of these dams would reduce power output from these dams while reduced water flow volumes would achieve the same end result.
Reduced water flow volumes can maintain higher water levels for ship navigation and allow for pumped hydraulic energy storage while providing water for the human population. There is the concern that the combination of fertilizer run-off from farms along with reduced river velocity would allow for the proliferation of water plants. There may be potential to process such plants into fertilizer, animal feed, perhaps as combustible fuel for biomass power plants or home heating stoves or become stock for cellulose based ethanol production.
Maintaining water levels by reducing water flow volumes provides potential to develop underground pumped hydraulic energy storage systems immediately downstream of the Moses-Saunders and Beauharnois Power Dams to compensate for the expected reduction in peak output. Such storage installations operate over a head that may be over 20-times the head of the nearby power dam and would generate high output using only a tiny fraction of the water outflow from the main dams. There are numerous sources of energy in Eastern Canada and NE USA that may be used to replenish the underground hydraulic installations located between Massena and Montreal.
Reduced water levels, receding shorelines along with a proliferation of dense shoreline plant growth have become a cause of concern at several locations along the Great Lakes. The economic strength of several large centers located near and around the Great Lakes depends on ship navigation on the lakes while hydroelectric power from the Niagara and Sault Ste Marie regions sustains a large population. Water from the Great Lakes sustains much agricultural production as well as the lives of several million people who live in towns and cities that border on the lakes. The economic value of the Great Lakes includes tourism with Niagara Falls being a premium destination.
Maintaining water levels in the Great Lakes is essential to economic well being to several million people. Reducing water flow volumes throughout the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River system would achieve such an objective. Changes in water flow volumes will affect the power generation industry and require such changes as expanded energy storage to maintain output peak periods. There may be economic opportunity from the infestation of coastline plant growth that may support cellulose based ethanol production, provide fuel for biomass power plants or be processed into fertilizer.
Great Lakes Energy:
The Great Lakes also serve as the heat sink that sustains the operation of several lakeside thermal power stations. While a conversion to dry cooling using giant cooling towers may be possible, reject heat from thermal power stations may have productive use and especially at locations where thermal power stations are located near to multiple underground salt caverns. Some of the caverns may be flushed of rock salt and used for compressed air energy storage (CAES) or natural gas storage while some of the salt caverns may be converted to deep-level, seasonal thermal energy storage using molten hydrated salt at 40°C to 90°C.
The solar power industry has developed thermal storage systems based on molten salt. Hydrated salt melts at lower constant temperature and may serve as a heat sink for some of the heat rejected a nearby thermal power station. A portion the heat may be pumped into seasonal thermal underground storage during the hot summer months and applied to district heating systems during the cold winter months. There may also be potential to use the waste heat generate electric power.
Organic Rankin Cycle (ORC) engines designed to operate on low-grade heat may generate electric power from stored heat during the winter months and transfer that energy into seasonal storage systems for use during the summer months. During summer, a portion of that heat may drive water-based vacuum refrigeration systems used for district cooling. During summer, a portion of the reject heat may be transferred via insulated pipeline to energize air-based vortex engines able to generate electric power.
Pumped Hydraulic Energy Storage:
There are plans to develop shoreline and offshore wind power installations at several locations around the Great Lakes. Powerful winds blow over the Great Lakes during winter, when demand for electric power is usually low. There is potential to transfer off-peak wind power into both short-term and seasonal storage installations. The research of Dr Charles Rhodes of Xylene Power indicates the potential for seasonal pumped hydraulic energy storage at Niagara Falls. Further information on this concept may be viewed online at the web page of Xylene Power. The proposed energy storage system may remain operational during periods of reduced water flow volumes through the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River waterway system.
There is potential to develop underground pumped hydraulic energy storage at several locations around the Great Lakes, including under cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto and Milwaukee. Tunnels have been drilled at Niagara Falls and without disturbing nearby neighborhoods, tourist attractions and commercial districts. Similar tunnel drilling could prevail at large Great Lakes cities to develop pumped underground hydraulic energy storage installations with reservoirs at 2000-ft depth that would be recharged during the overnight hours.
The operation of such installations may include heat exchangers to sustain the operation of heat pumps that will supply heat to buildings during winter and cooling capacity during summer. By comparison, thermal power stations transfer far greater quantities of heat into the Great Lakes. There may be scope to include liquid cooling into the electric motors and generators and transfer that heat into nearby buildings during winter. During peak periods, the storage systems would provide off-grid electric power for airports, electric mass transportation systems, traffic signaling systems and essential services such as hospitals.
Future Energy Sources:
Reduced precipitation in the watershed regions of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River system has the potential to reduce hydroelectric generation along that system. The reduced hydroelectric output between Lake Superior and Montreal may be combined with Niagara pumped storage and underground pumped storage at several of the Great Lakes cities to provide the output needed to sustain the activities of the large population that lives around the lakes. The energy required to replenish the energy storage systems overnight and on a seasonal basis may be provided by the combination of numerous technologies, some of which may generate power at distant locations.
There are plans to build new nuclear power plants within close proximity to the Great Lakes as well as plans to develop over 4000MW of wind energy generation at various coastal and offshore locations around the Great Lakes. There are some 1600-islands under First Nations jurisdiction located along the eastern side of Hudson Bay near the western coast of Quebec, where powerful winter winds blow. Many of these islands may serve as a base for various airborne wind power technologies that are currently under development. Several of these technologies may generate reliable electric power at comparable costs to existing and conventional technologies.
The energy storage systems around the Great Lakes could source some of their electric power from various oceanic energy conversion systems that are likely to appear in the Bay of Fundy, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and possibly Hudson Strait. There is also potential to develop and install terrain enhanced and terrain enabled wind power technologies at various locations in the Adirondack Mountains, Catskill Mountains and other high elevation locations. It may be possible to transfer competitively priced wind energy from Western Canada and Western USA via long-distance transmission lines into seasonal energy storage systems located around the Great Lakes.
Installing the equivalent of a faucet along the Lower St Lawrence River allows for a reduction in water volume flow rates through the waterway between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of St Lawrence. Implementing such an option during a period of reduced precipitation provides a means by which to maintain water levels along the waterway. The introduction of additional pumped hydraulic storage capacity at Niagara Falls and other locations around the Great Lakes would compensate for the resulting reduction in hydroelectric generation capacity during peak periods. In the years ahead, power generation and ship generation across the Great Lakes may continue with less water flowing through the system.