OPG announces 20-year, $2.5 billion overhaul of hydropower generating units

RH Saunders Generating Station

Hydroelectricity has powered the lives of Ontarians for a century, and Ontario Power Generation is planning an extensive 20-year overhaul of its hydropower generating units to ensure clean, reliable hydropower continues to support the province’s wellbeing.

The estimated $2.5 billion turbine/generator overhaul program aims to repair or replace key components in the generating units. This refurbishment takes place every 25 to 50 years across operations in the company’s Renewable Generation division. Numerous stations are reaching the critical age for major refurbishment, OPG said.

The overhaul program will ensure generating units can continue to operate efficiently and reliably while supporting OPG’s net-zero carbon goals outlined in its recent Climate Change Plan. The program will also create new jobs and numerous economic benefits for local and Indigenous communities in the way of partnerships, apprenticeships and other work opportunities.

“As a company, we have made a commitment to reach a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040, and investing into our hydro assets is key to reaching our climate change goals,” said Alison Bradley, director of asset and project management at OPG.

Bradley anticipates an average of eight hydro unit overhauls taking place each year over the next two decades, for a total of about 176 units. That’s 74% of all units within OPG’s Ontario hydro fleet, representing 6,550 MW of generating capacity. Some of these overhauls have already started in certain regions.

An overhaul of a hydroelectric generator can include the repair or replacement of parts like the stator, rotor, shaft, wicket gate, turbine, bearings and other major components. The work can take six months to a year depending on the scope, as well as the age and condition of the unit.

“We know this is going to be a very competitive market in the next few years,” Bradley said. “Beyond OPG, other utilities like Hydro-Quebec and BC Hydro all have assets in a very similar age range, and everyone will be going through a big overhaul or replacement program.”

To support this major capital project, OPG will be looking to expand its list of specialized engineering and manufacturing vendor partners, who will help design and replace the turbines and generator parts.

Through its partners and direct hiring, OPG also anticipates more skilled workers will be needed to support these refurbishments. In particular, there will be an increased need for jobs in engineering, project management, manufacturing, machining, construction trades and quality control.

This article was originally published on Hydro Review and is reprinted with permission.

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