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An incredible journey: a turbine makes its way from Germany to power B.C.

Mica Dam turbine in transit on a truck

Posted by Chelsea Watt

A new turbine heading to BC Hydro's Mica Generating Station is a true world traveler, on the kind of trip that many would envy. Going from Germany to Texas to Valemount, the turbine is the first of two that will eventually make their way to the Mica Generating Station. These key pieces of equipment are part of the two new generating units that BC Hydro is adding to the facility.

Turbines: basically, big water wheels

Each generating unit is powered by a turbine, which is essentially a large water wheel. Water will turn the giant turbine at 133 revolutions per minute — the same speed an elite sprint cyclist pedals during a race. The spinning turbine inside the generating unit converts the kinetic energy of the falling water into the electricity that powers our homes and businesses. But before the turbines can start to help generate electricity — they have to get here to our heritage dams.

Mica Dam turbine being unloaded from a truck

The turbine's journey

The turbine started its journey in Ravensburg, Germany, where it was manufactured. From there, it travelled by barge to Rotterdam, Netherlands. From the Netherlands, the turbine crossed the Atlantic Ocean to reach Houston, Texas. Now, it's just finished making its way across North America to Valemount, B.C., located at the tip of Kinbasket Reservoir.

As you might imagine, moving a turbine 13,000 kilometres across land and sea is quite a challenge. That challenge becomes even more formidable when you consider its size: the turbine is 6.45 metres across and weighs 136.7 tonnes, about the same as four adult humpback whales.

The turbine is so big, in fact, that BC Hydro has to use special equipment to transport it. The truck that is bringing it from Houston, Texas is over 33 metres long with 96 wheels to spread its massive weight. The load was so heavy that one truck was used to pull the trailer and a second truck pushed. This summer, the turbine will be barged down Kinbasket Reservoir to its new home at Mica Generating Station.

One turbine will help power 40,000 homes

Once the turbine and the fifth generating unit are in place, it will play an important part in powering B.C. — increasing Mica Generating station's capacity by approximately 500 megawatts, or about the same amount of energy it takes to power 40,000 homes and businesses during peak demand periods.

Watch for more updates on the turbine's journey as it travels down Kinbasket Reservoir to Mica Generating Station.

Chelsea Watt is a writer-editor with bchydro.com