We're investing in B.C. and planning for the future
It's been 33 years since we last built a dam
The Revelstoke dam was that last major dam built in B.C. That was in 1983 – the same year McDonald's introduced its Chicken McNuggets and Return of the Jedi was winning the box office.
Fast forward 32 years, the demand for both of these is still strong. McNuggets have remained a Happy Meal favourite and the Star Wars franchise has released five more films. While we may not have the star power of Ronald McDonald and Darth Vader, the demand for what we produce will continue to grow in the years to come as well. In fact, it’s estimated that the demand for electricity in B.C. will increase by up to 40% in the next 20 years. This means we need to invest in upgrading our system now to ensure we can continue to deliver clean, reliable power. After all, it's electricity that lets us all watch the latest Star Wars film.
During its construction, seen in the image on the left above taken in October, 1980, Revelstoke was built with four generating units, with space for two more to be added later on as the demand for electricity grew through the years.
In 2010, we installed a fifth generating unit, and we have plans to add a sixth by 2021. Each of these units produces over 250,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity – the largest capacity of any single unit in our system. This means that when you get home from work on the coldest, darkest day of the year – Revelstoke is generating the power you need to cook your dinner, run a load of laundry and watch the evening news.
Upgrades to our heritage assets just one way we're meeting B.C.'s needs
The W.A.C. Bennett Dam, together with the G.M. Shrum Generating Station has been the backbone of B.C.'s electricity system since it's completion in 1968. It's the largest facility in our system and generates about 23% of the province's electricity. But like many of our facilities, it's aging and needs some upgrading. We recently replaced five turbines (the large wheels that spin the water to generate electricity) with more modern units. This will increase the amount of electricity that can be generated by enough to power about 15,000 homes every year.
The Peace Canyon Dam is the second dam in our Peace River system and reuses the water generated at Bennett to produce about 700 MW of electricity a year (about a quarter of what's produced at Bennett).
Site C will be the third dam on the river and gain significant efficiencies by taking advantage of water already used by the two other facilities. This means that Site C will generate approximately 35% of the energy produced at W.A.C. Bennett Dam – enough to power about 450,000 homes – with only 5% of the reservoir area.
Average age of our generating facilities: 45 years
How many items do you have in your home that are at least 45 years old?
That's the average age of BC Hydro's generating facilities, but some of them are much older.
The Ruskin Dam, located near Mission, was completed in 1930, just before the Great Depression hit hard in B.C. and major industry slowed to a stop. Despite it being more than 85 years old, it still plays an important role in powering homes and businesses in the Lower Mainland. When it was completed in 1930, the population of the Lower Mainland was 245,000 people. That number has grown by more than 10 times today and will continue to grow in the years to come. That’s a lot more people who will need a lot more electricity.
In 2012, we began an improvement project to increase Ruskin's safety and reliability in the event of a major earthquake. We're also replacing the existing spillway concrete piers and penstocks as seen in the above image on the left and upgrading the tunnels that bring water from the river.
Regular maintenance and upgrades to ensure reliability
Long gone are the days when Power Line Technicians would 'free climb' poles and towers – no climbing today gets done without a safety harness in place at all times. While our crews still have the challenging job of maintaining our system to keep the lights on and fixing issues when they arise, the equipment they rely on and our safety standards have improved a lot since the photo on the right was taken in October 1975.
Some of the upgrade work our crews are currently undertaking across the province includes replacing about 70,000 power poles, most of which were built in 1960s – the same decade the old Port Mann bridge was constructed. This means that the pole seen in the image on the right is likely still in use today.
18,000 km of transmission lines to deliver electricity where it's needed
Constructing 49 towers and 19.4 kilometres of cable over the challenging terrain of the Fraser Canyon was no easy feat for our crews as they worked to complete our new Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission line. Huge crane helicopters, like the one seen above on the left were used to install the towers, just as we did when facilities like Mica Dam were being constructed in the 1970s. What has changed is the size of the transmission towers and the size of helicopter needed to do the work.
This new line will add efficienies to our overall transmission system, which has more than 18,000 kms of high-voltage power lines to transport electricity to communities across B.C.