Building Hydro in British Columbia

By Elizabeth Ingram

Hydropower project construction is occurring across Canada, which as a country has a strong focus on the importance of this valuable renewable resource. To showcase just a bit of the activity under way, this article focuses on four powerhouses currently under construction in British Columbia, three by Innergex and one by BC Hydro. Combined, these powerhouses will add 1,232 MW of capacity in the province, with some coming on line as early as this July.

Big Silver Creek

The 40.6-MW Big Silver Creek project – on Big Silver Creek, which flows into Harrison Lake – is expected to begin operating this July and be completed by August. Construction work began in June 2014. The run-of-river facility is about 50 km north of Harrison Hot Springs. Innergex closed C$197.2 million non-recourse construction and term project financing for the project in June 2015. As of February 2016, the civil works for the intake, tunnel, penstock, powerhouse and tailrace were completed. The civil works contractor was CRT-EBC S.E.N.C. Installation of the electrical equipment began in March 2016.

Submarine cable was laid on the bottom of Lake Harrison via barge to transmit electricity from the Big Silver Creek powerhouse.
Submarine cable was laid on the bottom of Lake Harrison via barge to transmit electricity from the Big Silver Creek powerhouse.

The facility features a conventional side intake with an Obermeyer spillway and sluice channel. Water flows through a 1.8-km-long unlined D-shaped tunnel that is 6 m in diameter to a 1.2-km-long, 3.6-m-diameter steel penstock. The powerhouse contains four identical horizontal-axis Francis turbines. Litostroj Hydro supplied the turbines and generators. Prime Engineering was the contractor for balance of plant (electrical, protection and control).

Turbine-generator equipment is being installed in the 40.6-MW Big Silver Creek powerhouse, which is expected to begin operating in July.
Turbine-generator equipment is being installed in the 40.6-MW Big Silver Creek powerhouse, which is expected to begin operating in July.

Innergex owns 100% of the Big Silver Creek project, which is anticipated to have yearly electricity output of 140 GWh. The PPA in place for this project, with BC Hydro, expires in 2056. Electricity is transmitted via a 27-km-long, 138-kV line, including a 3.8-km-long submarine cable on the bottom of Harrison Lake. Westpark Electric Ltd. was the contractor for the Big Silver Creek transmission line and substation.

Upper Lillooet Hydro

The 106.7-MW Upper Lillooet Hydro Project consists of two hydroelectric facilities: 81.4-MW Upper Lillooet River and 25.3-MW Boulder Creek. The powerhouses are about 3 km apart, with Upper Lillooet River situated below Keyhole Falls and Boulder Creek at the confluence of the Upper Lillooet River and Boulder Creek. Contractors are the same for both facilities: Andritz Hydro Canada Inc. (supplied turbines, generators and balance of plant electrical), CRT-EBC S.E.N.C. (civil works) and Westpark Electric (transmission line and substations).

In March 2015, Innergex announced the closing of C$491.6 million in non-recourse construction and term project financing for the Boulder Creek and Upper Lillooet River projects. A forest fire in July 2015 resulted in a full civil evacuation of both project sites and halted construction activities for nearly two months. Damage to the project sites from the fire was limited and nearly all structures and equipment remained intact. The actual developer of both facilities is Creek Power Inc., whose shareholders are Innergex with a two-thirds share and Ledcor Power Group Ltd. owning the remaining third. Both facilities are scheduled to be commissioned in early winter and spring 2017.

Collectively, development of the Upper Lillooet Hydro project provides many opportunities for First Nations and local contractors, suppliers and businesses in the supply of equipment, materials, services and accommodations during the construction phase.

Construction of a 72-km-long, 230-kV transmission line to connect the Boulder Creek and Upper Lillooet River facilities to the BC Hydro transmission system is well under way. The PPAs in place for both facilities, with BC Hydro, expire in 2056.

Upper Lillooet River facility

The run-of-river Upper Lillooet River facility is located about 55 km northwest of Pemberton on the Upper Lillooet River. It is expected to begin operating early next year.

The powerhouse for the 81.4-MW Upper Lillooet River facility contains three large and one small horizontal-axis Francis turbines.
The powerhouse for the 81.4-MW Upper Lillooet River facility contains three large and one small horizontal-axis Francis turbines.

The environmental assessment certificate for the project was issued in January 2013 and all provincial and federal permits were issued by August 2013. Site work began in August 2013 and primarily civil construction began in spring 2014. As of March 2016, significant progress had been made on the intake works, tunnel, penstock and powerhouse.

The facility features a conventional side intake with Obermeyer spillway and sluice channel. Water flows through a 2.5-km-long unlined D-shaped tunnel that is 6 m in diameter into a 1.6-km-long, 3.6-m-diameter steel penstock. The powerhouse will contain three large and one small horizontal-axis Francis turbines that operate at a gross head of 191 m and plant flow of 53 cubic meters per second (cms). These units are expected to arrive at the site in July 2016.

Boulder Creek facility

The Boulder Creek facility is located about 52 km northwest of Pemberton on Boulder Creek. It is expected to begin operating early to mid-2017.

The environmental assessment certificate for the project was issued in January 2013 and all provincial and federal permits were issued by August 2013. Overall construction work began in October 2013 and primarily civil construction began in spring 2014.

The facility features a conventional Coanda screen intake and sluice channel. Water flows through a 2.9-km-long unlined D-shaped tunnel that is 4.5 m in diameter into a 20-m-long, 1.6-m-diameter steel penstock. The powerhouse contains two vertical-axis Pelton turbines that operate at a gross head of 294 m and plant flow of 11.3 cms. Both generators for the powerhouse were delivered in December 2015. As of March 2016, significant progress had been made on the Boulder Creek intake works, tunnel and powerhouse.

At the 25.3-MW Boulder Creek project, water flows through a 2.9-km-long unlined D-shaped tunnel that is 4.5 m in diameter.
At the 25.3-MW Boulder Creek project, water flows through a 2.9-km-long unlined D-shaped tunnel that is 4.5 m in diameter.

Special opportunity to learn about Canadian hydropower

HydroVision International 2016 in Minneapolis will provide an opportunity to learn even more about the state of hydropower in Canada, with Manitoba Hydro President and Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Shepherd speaking during the opening keynote session on July 26.

Manitoba Hydro is both developing new hydro facilities – the 695-MW Keeyask Generating Station being one example – and exporting its resources to the U.S. through agreements with several utilities, including Minnesota Power. Minnesota Power is the official host utility for HydroVision International 2016. The company also exports power to other Canadian provinces, such as Saskatchewan.

Manitoba Hydro is a Crown Corporation and the province’s major energy utility, with nearly all of the electricity it generates coming from hydropower facilities.

Special focus on Site C

BC Hydro’s 1,100-MW Site C project has undergone more than the normal share of controversy. Despite this, work is moving forward, with the project receiving approval from the provincial government to proceed to construction in December 2014.

The main civil works contractor, under a contract valued at about C$1.75 billion, is Peace River Hydro Partners (ACCIONA Infrastructure Canada Inc., Petrowest Corporation and Samsung C&T Canada Ltd.). In early April, BC Hydro awarded a contract worth C$470 million to Voith Hydro to design, supply and install six vertical-axis Francis turbines, six generators and associated equipment.

A construction bulletin dated March 4 indicated construction of the worker accommodation lodge and other site buildings is ongoing, as is excavation and construction of a temporary bridge across the Peace River. The preliminary schedule says construction of the earthfill dam, along with the cofferdams and diversion tunnels, will begin in the second quarter of 2016; the roller-compacted-concrete buttress in the second quarter of 2017 ;and the generating station and spillways in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Site C is expected to cost $8.335 billion to build and will contribute 5,100 GWh of electricity annually starting in 2024.

Elizabeth Ingram is managing editor of Hydro Review.

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