Developing 2,400+ MW of Hydro in North America

By Elizabeth Ingram

Building new hydropower is a significant commitment. Beyond the long timeline and headaches involved in getting an operating license and arranging equipment delivery, there’s the massive financial responsibility. Even (relatively) small projects can cost serious money.

This overview of the site being developed for the 28-MW Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station shows the future location of the powerhouse relative to the waterway. This facility is expected to be complete in 2017.
This overview of the site being developed for the 28-MW Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station shows the future location of the powerhouse relative to the waterway. This facility is expected to be complete in 2017.

This article provides details about development work ongoing (or completed in 2015) at 10 hydro projects in the U.S. and Canada. This is just a representative sample and not intended to be comprehensive. (For example, I know Innergex is also currently building the 25.3-MW Boulder Creek, 21.2-MW Tretheway Creek and 81.4-MW Upper Lillooet projects, in addition to the Big Silver Creek facility featured below.) The more than 2,450 MW of hydropower discussed below represents an investment of more than $18 billion … and dozens of years.

Read on to learn who is developing these projects, where they are located, what it cost to develop them, how they got financing and much more.

A-Mill Artist Lofts

Developer: Dominium

Location: Minneapolis, Minn., U.S.

Waterway: Mississippi River

Capacity: 600 kW

Estimated annual energy output: 3.3 MWh

Planned commissioning date: December 2015

Cost to develop: Not disclosed

Financing sources: Not disclosed

Power purchaser: Residents of A-Mill Artist Lofts

Description: This facility is being built in the former Pillsbury A Mill and involves installing new penstocks and turbine-generator units in the historical water power canals in and near the mill that were originally built in 1881 to mill flour. The project is expected to generate 50% to 70% of the power needed by residents of the A-Mill Artist Lofts, an apartment complex also under construction by Dominium.

Companies performing work: ECI Engineering & Construction Innovations, Engineering Partners, HDR, Weis Builders

Big Silver Creek

Developer: Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.

Location: 40 km north of Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada

Waterway: Big Silver Creek

Capacity: 40.6 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 139.8 GWh

Planned commissioning date: 2016

Cost to develop: C$216 million (US$162 million)

Financing sources: C$197.2 million (US$148.1 million) in non-recourse construction and term project financing from The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife) and Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec

Power purchaser: BC Hydro, 40-year fixed-price power purchase agreement

Description: Construction on this run-of-river plant, located on Crown land, began in June 2014. Excavation of the tunnel for the plant was recently completed, and the 3.6-meter-diameter penstock is being installed. Construction of the powerhouse, design and procurement of electrical equipment, and procurement of the turbines are all progressing.

Companies performing work: CRT-EBC, Dean Brox Consulting, Detmold Engineering, Golder, Kawa Engineering, Litostroj Hydro, Prime Engineering, Tetra Tech, Westpark Electric

The 40.6-MW Big Silver Creek powerhouse is taking shape quickly in British Columbia, Canada. This project is expected to begin operating in 2016, with BC Hydro purchasing the power generated.
The 40.6-MW Big Silver Creek powerhouse is taking shape quickly in British Columbia, Canada. This project is expected to begin operating in 2016, with BC Hydro purchasing the power generated.

Jimmie Creek

Developer: Alterra Power Corp. and Axium Infrastructure Inc.

Location: 80 km northeast of Powell River, British Columbia, Canada

Waterway: Jimmie Creek

Capacity: 62 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 159 GWh

Planned commissioning date: Summer 2016

Cost to develop: $227 million

Financing sources: $176.5 million non-recourse loan facility with group of Canadian life insurance companies

Power purchaser: BC Hydro, 40-year power purchase agreement

Description: This run-of-river facility includes a rubber diversion dam, a 3-km-long buried penstock, and a powerhouse containing two 31-MW turbine-generator units. Construction of the facility started in the spring of 2014. The powerhouse will connect to the existing 155-km-long, 230-kV Toba Montrose transmission line to Saltery Bay, where it will interconnect with the BC Hydro system.

Companies performing work: ECODynamic Solutions (EDS), Hazelwood Construction Services, Kawa Engineering, SNC-Lavalin, Voith Hydro, VVI Construction, Western Pacific Enterprises GP

Muskrat Falls

Developer: Nalcor Energy

Location: 30 km west of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada

Waterway: Churchill River

Capacity: 824 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 4,900 GWh

Planned commissioning date: 2017

Cost to develop: $6.99 billion (including associated transmission lines)

Financing sources: Sovereign Guarantee from Canadian federal government

Power purchaser: Not disclosed

Description: The project received the go-ahead from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale in December 2012. The facility consists of two dams – one 32 meters high by 432 meters long and one 20 meters high and 325 meters long – and a powerhouse. This powerhouse is one component of the Lower Churchill complex, which could also eventually include the 2,250-MW Gull Island plant. About 40% of the power generated will be used to meet electricity needs in Newfoundland and Labrador, Emera will get 20% in exchange for paying 20% of the project cost, and the remaining 40% may be exported into Atlantic Canadian and New England markets or retained for use by Nalcor.

Companies performing work: Alstom, Andritz Hydro, Astaldi Canada, Barnard-Pennecon JV Ltd.

Peter Sutherland Sr. Generating Station

Developer: Ontario Power Generation and Coral Rapids Power (a company wholly owned by Taykwa Tagamou Nation)

Location: Northern Ontario, Canada

Waterway: New Post Creek

Capacity: 28 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 130 GWh

Planned commissioning date: 2017

Cost to develop: $300 million

Financing sources: Debt, including the Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program

Power purchaser: Independent Electricity System Operator

Description: This project (formerly called New Post Creek) includes construction of a spillway dam, 340-meter-long channel intake and powerhouse. The powerhouse will contain two 14-MW horizontal-axis Francis turbine-generator units. Water taken from New Post Creek will travel through a 250-meter-long, 4-meter-diameter buried steel penstock to the powerhouse, then be returned to the Abitibi River, taking advantage of a significant elevation change between the two waterways. Power will be transmitted via a 7-km-long line connecting to an existing 115-kV transmission line.

Companies performing work: Aecon, Andritz, KGS Group, Kiewit, Knight Piesold, Mecan-Hydro

Red Rock

Developer: Missouri River Energy Services and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency

Location: Near Pella, Iowa, U.S.

Waterway: Des Moines River

Capacity: 36.4 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 178 GWh

Planned commissioning date: Spring 2018

Cost to develop: $379 million (total project cost)

Financing sources: Municipal bonds

Power purchaser: Electricity will serve the needs of MRES’ municipal members

Description: This hydropower facility is being built at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure. The hydro plant is being constructed immediately northeast of the existing spillway. Two penstocks will run from the intake structure through penetrations in the dam to the powerhouse. Each penstock will supply water to a vertical Kaplan-type hydraulic unit directly connected to a generator. The project will be operated in a run-of-release mode.

Companies performing work: Ames Construction Inc., DGR Engineering, MWH Americas, Voith Hydro

Site C

Developer: BC Hydro

Location: Northeastern British Columbia, Canada

Waterway: Peace River

Capacity: 1,100 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 5,100 GWh

Planned commissioning date: 2024

Cost to develop: $8.775 billion

Financing sources: BC Hydro, as a Crown Corporation with the province of British Columbia as its shareholder

Power purchaser: Electricity produced will be fed into the BC Hydro grid

Description: The hydro project is being developed to meet what British Columbia anticipates will be a 40% increase in the province’s demand for power over the coming two decades. The project received federal and environmental approvals in October 2014. The structure will consist of an 800-meter-long roller-compacted-concrete buttress and an earthfill dam about 60 meters tall and 1,050 meters long. The powerhouse will contain six 183-MW turbine-generator units.

Companies performing work: A.L. Sims and Sons, ATCO Two Rivers Lodging Group, Morgan Construction and Environmental, Paul Paquette and Sons Contracting

Thomas Low Generating Station Expansion

Developer: Renfrew Power Generation

Location: Renfrew, Ontario, Canada

Waterway: Bonnechere River

Capacity: 4 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 16 MWh

Commissioning date: March 2015

Cost to develop: $24.7 million

Financing sources: Loan from Toronto- Dominion Bank

Power purchaser: Independent electricity system operator through a 20-year contract

Description: This overhaul involved expanding the 2-MW facility (structured as two 1-MW plants) through construction of a third powerhouse at the existing dam and canal. The new powerhouse contains two 2-MW Kaplan turbine-generator units. Construction started in June 2013.

Companies performing work: Bonnechere Excavating, ESAC Electrical and Systems Advanced Control, Norcan Hydraulic Turbine

Waneta Expansion

Developer: Waneta Expansion Ltd. Partnership (Fortis Inc., Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust)

Location: South of Trail, British Columbia, Canada

Waterway: Pend d’Oreille River

Capacity: 335 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 1,600 GWh

Commissioning date: April 2015

Cost to develop: $900 million

Financing sources: Owner’s equity

Power purchaser: BC Hydro and FortisBC, 40-year power purchase agreements

Description: This work involved adding a second powerhouse immediately downstream from Waneta Dam, using existing hydraulic head to generate power from water that would have been wasted. Two 10.5-m-diameter tunnels feed two 167.5-MW Francis turbine-generator units. The project included construction of a 10-km-long, 230-kV transmission line.

Companies performing work: Andritz Hydro, ASL-JV, COH, HICO, Martech, Rockwell Automation, SNC-Lavalin, Voith Hydro, West Kootenay Mechanical

Willow Island

Developer: American Municipal Power

Location: Pleasants County, W.Va., U.S.

Waterway: Ohio River

Capacity: 35 MW

Estimated annual energy output: 239 GWh

Planned commissioning date: 2015

Cost to develop: $300 million

Financing sources: Not disclosed

Power purchaser: Not disclosed

Description: This facility is being constructed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Willow Island Locks and Dam. A groundbreaking was held for the facility in July 2011. The site will include an intake approach channel, a reinforced concrete powerhouse with two horizontal 17.5-MW bulb turbines, and a tailrace channel.

Companies performing work: MWH, Ruhlin Company, Voith Hydro

Elizabeth Ingram is managing editor of Hydro Review.

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