University of Toronto, OWA offer graduate courses in waterpower

The University of Toronto and the Ontario Waterpower Association have partnered in the development of a new curriculum focused on waterpower.

As the world strives for decarbonization, the energy supply is in transition and waterpower is uniquely positioned to support this change. As the oldest form of low carbon energy, waterpower’s role is becoming even more important. The energy transition is demanding more flexibility to support other renewable technologies, upgrading of aging infrastructure that not only supports the electricity grid but is imperative for integrated water management in supporting flood mitigation, navigation and recreation. There are exciting opportunities with new energy storage facilities and investment in small waterpower at the distribution level. The challenges with climate change and balancing water resources are many, but waterpower stations are suited to tackle these challenges, embedded in communities and ecosystems across Canada.

A new curriculum focused on waterpower aims to prepare students for the unique challenges of this technology and growing opportunities in the industry, drawing on its long history and the many lessons learnt, especially in the domain of sustainable development.

“Educating the next generation of waterpower professionals has been an ongoing need for some time.” said Bill Touzel, OWA board member. “This new University of Toronto Master’s program has specific hydropower focused courses that aim to bridge the gap between engineering students, industry professionals and those who are interested and passionate about the unique attributes that waterpower technology can bring to the table to solve future challenges.”

“Providing an academic pathway for waterpower professionals is of the utmost importance to our industry,” said Paul Norris, president of OWA. “Waterpower has been the backbone of the electricity system for over a century and now, more than ever, new trained waterpower professionals are needed to balance the ongoing complexities of economic, environmental and social challenges we face as a society.”

The curriculum is being designed in close collaboration with an OWA advisory committee, including two new graduate courses. OWA is also consulting with faculty to introduce waterpower-specific content to the existing CIV550. Finally, a new Technical Emphasis in Waterpower is in development, to which the following courses will be core.

CIVXXXX: Waterpower Essentials (NEW: Fall, 2021)

An overview of the waterpower industry, beginning with its historical development, how power stations work and their structural, mechanical and electrical components; followed by operation and maintenance; risk assessment; contract models; dam safety; policy, planning and partnerships; business models; and market participation.

CIVXXXX: Renewal of Waterpower Facilities (NEW: Winter, 2022)

Waterpower infrastructure is both ageing and being repurposed. This course looks at how the design of waterpower dams, structures and equipment has been shaped by technological change over time. Students will learn to analyze the upgrade potential of an existing plant; review the tools and data available to understand site condition and to be aware of modernization scope for structures and equipment.

CIV550: Water Resources Engineering (Fall, 2021)

This course covers global, national and regional water issues, law and legislation; hydraulic structures; reservoir analysis; urban drainage and runoff control: meteorological data analysis, deterministic and stochastic modeling techniques; flood control: structural and nonstructural alternatives; power generation: hydro and thermal power generation. low flow augmentation; economics and decision making.

OWA is a non-profit organization representing the collective interest of the waterpower sector. Their membership includes generators, engineering firms, environmental consultants, legal, project financing and insurance firms, First Nations communities and other organizations.


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