Industry Snapshot: Development and Regeneration in Canada

Canada is taking the necessary steps to secure a clean, renewable future based heavily on hydropower. Through new development, regeneration and rehabilitation, Canadian hydropower is expanding its influence in the power generation industry.

By Bethany Duarte

Hydropower is thriving in Canada, and work is under way to increase its stronghold in this nation that gets 60% of its electricity from hydro facilities. In fact, during his keynote address at HydroVision International 2012 in Louisville, Ky., Canadian Hydropower Association President Jacob Irving commented that “even as the world’s third largest hydropower generator, [Canada] could still realistically more than double [its] existing capacity.”

Hydropower is the single largest generation source in Canada, with tremendous potential for increase. A current snapshot of the hydro industry reveals that developers and utilities in nearly every province are working to do just that. New projects are in development country-wide, utilizing new turbine and generator technologies, untapped potential sites and innovative designs to increase both capacity and efficiency. The recent passing of Canada’s Bill C-38 encourages hydropower development even further. Bill C-38, also known as the Budget Implementation Act, became law in June after receiving royal assent. The bill is intended to make the review process more streamlined and efficient, reduce duplicity in project reviews, strengthen environmental protection, and increase interactions between agencies and aboriginal groups. As an industry, Canadian hydro demonstrates a commitment to regeneration, both of resources and of technology. By regenerating older facilities through repairs and rehabilitation, as well as building on preexisting infrastructure to keep costs and environmental impact low, Canadian hydro companies are utilizing their resources efficiently and effectively. The current wave of development is a picture of this type of regeneration.

Québec: Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert

Hydro-Québec is adding to its hydro capacity with the 918-MW Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert project on the Rupert River in Northern Québec. This work is expected to cost C$5 billion (US$5.05 billion) and be complete by 2013.

The project will create two diversion bays (tailbay and forebay) and send up to 71% of the flow of the Rupert River north to the turbines of the newly constructed 768-MW Eastmain-1-A and 150-MW Sarcelle powerhouses, located near the existing Opinaca Reservoir. After passing through these stations, the water will be used to generate power at three additional preexisting stations – 5,616-MW Robert Bourassa, 2,106-MW La Grande 2-A and 1,436-MW La-Grande-1 – before flowing into James Bay. New 315-kV power lines between Eastmain-1 and Eastmain-1-A, and between Sarcelle and Eastmain-1, will transmit the additional power to the distribution grid.

The diversion bay construction includes four dams: Rupert (diverts the river flow northward), Lemare (closes the forebay), Nemiscau-1 (closes the tailbay on the south end of Rivière Nemescau), and Nemiscau-2 (closes the tailbay on the north end of Rivière Nemescau). In addition, workers will construct 74 dikes to close the diversion bays. The diverted water will flow through a newly constructed transfer tunnel from the Rupert forebay into the tailbay.

Hydro-Québec is partnering with the James Bay Cree Nation on this project. The structure of the agreement ensures the Cree community will maintain active involvement throughout the project. The Cree community favored the project with a 70% vote, as it creates local jobs and provides C$1.5 million for employment training for Cree workers and more than C$40 million in contracts with Cree workers and businesses.

Cree representatives formed committees and feasibility study groups during the preliminary research studies and construction. The Cree-Hydro-Québec Feasibility Study Group encouraged discussion and dispersion of knowledge about the project to the Cree community through panels and workshops.

In addition to the preliminary study group, a follow-up committee was formed to coordinate support for area tradesmen, update the community regularly on the project, provide a discussion forum for environmental concerns and offer feedback on mitigation measures. The committee communicates through radio broadcasts, a newsletter, public information sessions and meetings.

The Municipality of Baie-James is also affected by the project. Hydro-Québec signed a partnership with the municipality in 2005, committing to a C$300 million contribution for economic, environmental and social projects in the community. As with the Cree community, Hydro-Québec made concerted efforts to inform Jamesian land owners of project details and to address environmental and economic concerns.

An environmental monitoring system is in place to protect the area during construction. It includes mitigation measures to ensure water quality is maintained; navigation systems are operational; various animal species are protected; and the trapping, fishing, and hunting industries are not impeded by construction. An environmental follow-up process will monitor the continuing impact of the project, make necessary corrections as needed, and collect data to improve future project designs and development.

Construction work began in January 2007. The Rupert diversion section was completed in 2009, Eastmain-1-A was operational this summer, and Sarcelle will be operational in 2013. Voith Hydro supplied three Francis turbine-generators for the Eastmain-1-A powerhouse. Alstom Hydro is supplying three bulb turbine-generators for the Sarcelle powerhouse.

The newly-constructed Eastmain-1-A powerhouse contributes a capacity of 786 MW to the power grid in Northern Québec. (Photos courtesy Hydro-Québec.)
The newly-constructed Eastmain-1-A powerhouse contributes a capacity of 786 MW to the power grid in Northern Québec. (Photos courtesy Hydro-Québec.)

Ontario: Niagara Tunnel

The Niagara Tunnel is an innovative feat of engineering developed by Ontario Power Generation to divert flow from the Niagara River underneath the city of Niagara Falls to the existing 2,000-MW Sir Adam Beck Generating Station. River flow overwhelms the canals that feed into the station 65% of the time. Once the tunnel is operational, this excess of flow will occur only 15% of the time, conserving more water for generation use. As a result, up to 1,600 GWh of electricity will be added to the power grid.

The tunnel is one of the largest of its kind, measuring 14.4 meters (47.3 feet) wide and 10.2 km (6.3 miles) long. It runs 140 meters (500 feet) below the surface. Diverted water will fill the tunnel at a rate of 17,680 cubic feet per second

The tunnel’s flow will end at Sir Adam Beck, which generates 8% of Ontario’s electricity. Constructed in 1922 to use water from the upper Niagara River, the station was expanded with a second unit in 1954 to take advantage of flow from diversion tunnels under the city, and a pump-generating station and reservoir were added in 1958. In recent years, capacity of the powerhouse was increased by 194 MW through upgrades and rehabilitation.

Construction began in 2006, supervised by Austrian contractor Strabag AG. Hatch Energy is also reviewing and monitoring design and construction activities at the project.

A project of this magnitude required the world’s largest tunnel boring machine (TBM), aptly named “Big Becky.” The machine was constructed for the project by Strabag in 2006 and measures 14.4 meters (47.3 feet) in height. It is 150 meters (500 feet) long and weighs 4,000 tonnes (4,400 tons).

Big Becky started boring on Sept. 1, 2006, and broke through on May 13, 2011. With the exception of a daily four-hour break for repairs and safety checks, Big Becky worked seven days a week for 20 hours a day. The TBM was operated by Strabag and Canadian workers from inside the structure. As the TBM bored the rock, conveyor systems installed in its front section removed debris from the cave. Workers reinforced the walls of the tunnel with wire mesh, rock bolts and steel ribs to prevent cave-ins.

Strabag has subcontracted Canadian Overhead Handling to prepare the intake and outlet sites. COH is installing stoplogs at the intake site and gate guides and water control and hoist gates at the outlet site to control and regulate the water flow before and after the cofferdam is removed in 2013. On the inside of the tunnel, workers continue to reinforce the walls. Concrete and a waterproof membrane are being applied to line the tunnel walls. Installation of the permanent tunnel liner is complete for the first 7.2 km (4.47 miles), and the final grouting and lining process is complete for more than 40% of the tunnel.

The Niagara Tunnel will be operational in 2013.

Ontario: Lower Mattagami

Located in the Moose River Basin in northeastern Ontario, the Mattagami River is the site of one of the largest hydro projects in the area in the past 50 years. Once completed, the C$2.6 billion Lower Mattagami Project will provide an additional 440 MW of capacity without construction of a single dam. This regenerative approach will reduce the environmental impacts typically experienced during new construction work.

Project developer OPG is currently adding and replacing units at four stations along the 418-km-long (259.7 miles) waterway. Additional units will be installed at 138-MW Little Long, 142-MW Harmon and 154-MW Kipling. Each station utilizes two 1960s-era turbine-generator units to produce electricity. The additional turbines and generators will increase capacity of these plants to 205 MW, 220 MW and 232 MW, respectively, an increase of more than 50% per station.

OPG is also upgrading the 1931 50-MW Smoky Falls station. Because of its small size and age, it is not as efficient or effective as the other Mattagami River stations. To remedy this, OPG is building a new three-unit, 270-MW station beside the original structure. While the spillways and dam will remain in place, a new intake, tailrace and approach channel will be added. Total capacity of the Mattagami River Project will increase from 486 MW to a near-double 924 MW.

The overall increase in power generation, distributed by Hydro One, is not the only benefit of the project. The construction phase will create 600 to 800 jobs from its start in early 2011 to its projected date of operation in June 2013.

OPG and the Moose Cree First Nation agreed to a partnership that offers up to 25% of the equity in the project to the nation, with the remaining going to OPG. The aboriginal group has and will continue to play an active role as the project progresses. Of the individuals employed by the project and its partners, the Moose Cree First Nation is well-represented in the workforce, says Chief Norman Hardisty. “The Lower Mattagami Project provides real and lasting opportunities for all Moose Cree members … As true partners in this development, we believe it will provide an economic foundation for the First Nation well into the future,” he says.

The project represents an important factor in Northern Ontario growth, according to Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Dugald, by “positioning the north for a leadership role in developing a sustainable provincial energy supply and creating economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples.”

Work is being performed by Kiewit Alerie Partnership, the Moose Cree First Nation and Aecon Infrastructure Group. The project will be operational in 2015.

The largest hydroelectric project in the area in 50 years, the Lower Mattagami project will utilize preexisting structures and contribute 440 MW to the power grid without the construction of a single dam.
The largest hydroelectric project in the area in 50 years, the Lower Mattagami project will utilize preexisting structures and contribute 440 MW to the power grid without the construction of a single dam.

Labrador/Newfoundland/Nova Scotia: Lower Churchill

The 3,064-MW Lower Churchill project was proposed as an efficient way to meet the growing demand for power in the region, support industrial development in the area, stabilize power rates and bring revenue to the province.

The Nalcor Energy project is divided into two stages, with the first focusing on development of the 824-MW Muskrat Falls plant on the lower Churchill River. Muskrat Falls is a natural waterfall 25 km (15.5 miles) west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador. The hydro facility will provide power via a 1,100-km-long (683.5 miles) transmission line to the coast of Newfoundland.

In the second phase of the project, Nalcor Energy will install a 2,250-MW facility at Gull Island, located 60 km (37.3 miles) upstream, about three years after completion of Muskrat Falls. This phase of construction will last up to eight years.

Formal agreements made between Labrador and Nova Scotia in July link corporations Nalcor Energy and Emera Inc. in a project that will distribute power via a 480-km-long maritime transmission link to Nova Scotia. The transmission link, projected to cost C$1.2 billion, will be constructed and funded by Emera and its subsidiary Nova Scotia Power Inc. The agreement protects the interests of Nova Scotia and grants the province 170 MW each year of the Muskrat Falls capacity for 35 years in exchange for Emera’s financial support of the transmission line.

The project will employ 2,700 people and provide more than C$1 billion in income and C$200 million in taxes for the province. Additionally, an established hydropower project and increased generation capacity will decrease the province’s dependence on foreign oils while providing a stabilized energy supply. Power customers also may see steadier rates as a result, says Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter.

The project will create 6,790 person-years of employment for Nova Scotia, provide up to 10% of the province’s energy needs throughout the 35-year agreement, and offer the ability to purchase additional power to distribute into New England at a competitive rate.

Lower Churchill is expected to be online in 2017.

British Columbia: Gordon M. Shrum Generating Station

BC Hydro is in the midst of an expansive regeneration project on eight of the 10 units at the 2,730-MW Gordon M. Shrum Generating Station.

The station is on the Peace River next to W.A.C. Bennett Dam in British Columbia. The hydro station supplies 24% of British Columbia’s total generating capacity. Built in the 1960s, the Gordon M. Shrum station is due equipment upgrades and replacements.

The C$500 million project began in 2009 as a series of staged replacements and upgrades on eight of the 10 generating units. Repairs are scheduled to accommodate peak and low seasons to ensure energy demands are met.

The 1960s-era turbines in Units 1 through 5 are being rehabilitated. The new Voith Hydro turbines will contribute an additional 177 GWh of energy per year without changing the 261-MW capacity. To improve efficiency and ensure the longevity of the units, generator stators were replaced and rotor poles supplied by Andritz Hydro were installed in Units 1 through 4. The newly rehabilitated units will be operational in 2015.

Current equipment and water license constraints limit the turbines to the preexisting capacity, but the plant will run more efficiently and for a longer duration. Units 5-10 were installed at a later date and require less repair and rehabilitation at this time as a result.

Ten generators in the station service system that produce power for battery systems, plant controls and other ancillary systems were upgraded from 2009 to 2011. Work began in 2009 to refurbish Units 6 through 8, including circuit breaker and generator iso-phase bus replacements. Once completed in fall 2013, the upgrades will increase the overall capacity of the plant by 90 MW.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2017.

The massive Gordon M. Shrum Generating Station supplies 24% of British Columbia's total generating capacity. The current upgrades will increase the capacity of the plant by 90 MW. (Photo courtesy BC Hydro)
The massive Gordon M. Shrum Generating Station supplies 24% of British Columbia’s total generating capacity. The current upgrades will increase the capacity of the plant by 90 MW. (Photo courtesy BC Hydro)

Manitoba: Keeyask station

Construction began this year on Manitoba’s fourth largest generating station.

The 695-MW Keeyask Generating Station is being developed by a partnership between provincially-owned Manitoba Hydro and the Keeyask Cree Nations. This agreement will place at least 75% of the equity in the hands of Manitoba Hydro, with the right to own up to 25% left to the Nations.

The station will utilize the waters of the lower Nelson River in Northern Manitoba, located about 60 km (37.3 miles) downstream from Split Lake Resource Management Area and 725 km (450.5 miles) northeast of Winnipeg.

The Keeyask station development is in response to power purchase agreements between Manitoba Hydro and several U.S. utilities, including Minnesota Power and Wisconsin Public Service. The agreements require 350 MW in additional hydropower development in Manitoba and increased interconnectivity between the province and the U.S.

The Keeyask station is expected to generate 4,400 GWh of electricity each year. According to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, the project should cost C$5.6 billion and will provide 4,500 person-years of construction employment.

The first unit is expected to be operational in 2019, with the remaining six online by 2021.

Nova Scotia: The Marine Hydrokinetic Frontier

The Department of Energy has moved beyond the preliminary research phase of marine hydrokinetic development in Nova Scotia. The province released a plan in May to develop hydropower within the Bay of Fundy and other tidal areas. Following years of research, the outlined strategy “will guide work related to in-stream tidal development. We have tapped into the expertise and knowledge of local experts to ensure it is implemented in a socially and environmentally responsible manner,” says Energy Minister Charlie Parker.

Research and development will continue with the ultimate goal of installing technology and systems to best harness the plentiful marine renewable energy resources surrounding the province. According to Bob Fournier, Dalhousie University oceanographer, the plan provides clearly defined goals and priorities while offering a means to track progress as research and development continues.

The plan also includes regulatory policies to protect industries and interests in Nova Scotia and ensure the highest standard of environmental monitoring and protection of test sites, says a Department of Energy release.

The marine hydrokinetic industry has tremendous potential in Nova Scotia, offering a possible C$1.5 billion (US$1.52 billion) in investments and as much as 7,500 person-hours of project employment.

“The plan shows Nova Scotia is thinking long term about tidal energy,” says Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy Chair John Woods. “The province is considering everything from environmental effects, to costs, to economic benefits; all of that is important if tidal is to become part of our future energy mix.”

Bethany Duarte is associate editor of Hydro Review.

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