Canada Opens New Run-of-River Hydro Facility

With construction complete, water is spiraling down 145 meters of tubing to spin turbines at a new 25 MW “run-of-river” hydroelectric project in British Columbia. With no dam to alter the river’s flow, the design attempts to mitigate the environmental concerns traditionally associated with commercial dam-based hydro projects.

The Upper Mamquam Hydroelectric Plant near Squamish, developed by Canadian Hydro Developers, is expected to deliver 98,000 MWh per year. Power from the CAD $39 million (US$ 33 million) project will be sold to BC Hydro under a 20-year power sale contract; BC Hydro has also purchased Renewable Energy Certificates from the project. The 25-MW project is located upstream of a 15 m waterfall on the Mamquam River. The distance from the water intake to the powerhouse of the Upper Mamquam Hydroelectric Project is 1.7 km. At full flow, 513 million gallons of water per day (at 27 cubic meters per second) will pass through the turbines. Four unique features of the plant include the 145 m tunnel allowing the buried steel penstock to pass through a rock wall, a bypass valve for uninterrupted river flow, the project’s proximity to an urban area, and its location just upstream of another run-of-river hydro facility. Run-of-river hydro plants, which do not require dams, rely on the natural downward flow of the stream to guide water through pipes to a generating station. The force of the water spins a turbine, which drives an electric generator that creates electricity. Of the two major types of hydro projects, the environmental ‘footprint’ of run-of-river facilities is considered low-impact compared to the facilities that have large storage reservoirs. “Independent power producers are one of the key priorities for BC Hydro when it comes to meeting the province’s future electricity needs,” said Dave Kusnierczyk, BC Hydro’s Manager of Power Acquisitions and Contract Management. “The Upper Mamquam project is an exceptional example of how the industry can step up to the plate and help BC Hydro meet its goal of electrical self-sufficiency.” Now that the plant is operational, Canadian Hydro will seek certification as a Green Power facility under the Environmental Choice Ecologo program, which requires that projects use a renewable resource, and be environmentally and socially responsible.

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