Massive turbine makes its way home to Mica Dam

Turbine for Mica Dam loaded onto barge

Update: Sixth unit now at Mica, following arrival of fifth unit in June

BC Hydro’s newest hydroelectric turbine arrived at Mica Generating Station on October 20, 2013 after being transported by barge down the 200 kilometre-long Kinbasket Reservoir.

The stainless steel turbine is 6.45 metres in diameter and weighs 137.5 tonnes – about as much as four humpback whales.

Mica was originally designed to hold six generating units, but only four were installed when the station was constructed in the 1970s. BC Hydro is now working to add two new generating units at Mica that will provide an additional 1,000 megawatts of capacity to the system. The new turbine will power the sixth generating unit currently under construction.

The turbine for the fifth generating unit was delivered in June 2013. Check out the full story of the turbine journey, originally published in June 2013, below.

Long journey complete with barge trip across reservoir

A new turbine for BC Hydro's Mica Generating Station has made its way home after travelling through Germany, the Netherlands, and Texas, and spending the winter in Valemount, B.C. The first part of the turbine's journey between Ravensburg, Germany and Valemount, B.C. was completed in March, and in the last week of June, the turbine made its way onto a special barge that would take it the rest of the way.

Moving a large turbine? It can be a large challenge

Finding the right route for a turbine the size of this one is very challenging, explains project manager Owen Williams.

Deciding where the turbine should land in North America was only one piece of the puzzle. Heavy industrial traffic between Houston and Edmonton demonstrated that the roads were proven to carry large, heavy loads, which helped determine that the turbine would be shipped to Houston, instead of Vancouver. "The road between Vancouver and Mica Dam also had too many bridges," says Williams of selecting the route. The team also investigated the possibility of moving the turbine by rail, but as Williams explains, the railroad route has snowsheds which limit the width of loads, making it very impractical to move the turbine by rail.

Once the route was decided, there came the matter of selecting the right transport. The turbine was transported by truck using a 110-foot-long trailer, with 96 wheels to support the immense weight of the turbine. Check out photos of the truck and trailer in action.

At Valemount, tugboats were needed to prepare the barge and position the turbine for its travels down the reservoir. The barge was filled with water to help stabilize the weight from the large load, and the turbine finally set off on the final 100 kilometres of its journey, down Kinbasket Reservoir to the Mica Dam.

Now, the Mica 5 turbine is at Mica Generating Station where it will be installed.

Video shows final leg of journey

Check out this video showing the final piece of the journey as the barge travels across the reservoir:

New turbine will increase capacity at Mica

Once it's installed, the turbine will power the new fifth generating unit that's currently under construction at Mica Generating Station.

Originally designed to hold six generating units, only four were installed when the station was constructed in the 1970s. Now BC Hydro is working to add the two new remaining generating units at Mica Generating Station that will provide an additional approximate 1,000 megawatts of capacity to BC Hydro's system. This is a significant amount of capacity that will be there when BC Hydro customers need it most — during cold and dark winter days when lighting, baseboard heaters, appliances and electronics are all in use.