Stories & features

Kootenay Canal Generating Station: looking back at 40 years

Overhead image of the Kootenay Canal Generating Station

Clean, reliable power going four decades strong near Nelson, B.C.

Between 1962 and 1985, BC Hydro built six dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries. Kootenay Canal was one of them, and 40 years ago today, the last of its four generating units came into service.

Located 19 kilometres downstream of Nelson, B.C., Kootenay Canal was the first of our run-of-river plants to be added to the system. With an original capacity of 529 megawatts, the facility has since undergone several upgrades to increase the rated capacity to 588 megawatts – enough to power 47,000 homes at peak demand.

Power first became available at Kootenay Canal in the fall of 1975, when two 132,300 kW generating units were placed in service. The last of the four units went into service on October 4, 1976.

Upgrades keep clean power going for years to come

Like with many of our aging assets, we've completed and planned a number of upgrades to replace and modernize Kootenay Canal's aging equipment.

In the mid-90s, we upgraded the turbines on all four generating units, including adding new runners, bringing the plant to its current capacity of 588 megawatts.

In 2014, the canal was dewatered so that the lining of the canal forebay could be upgraded to an extremely durable and specialised geotextile material designed for water storage in canals and reservoirs. This work is expected to extend the lifespan of the canal by about 50 years.

Looking ahead to next year, we'll install new station service transformers and we'll upgrade unit protection. Over the next four to five years, we also plan to upgrade the generator and explore digital modernization of the generating station.

Take a look back at the past 40 years of the Kootenay Canal with these historical photos:

Above: An electrician wiring the control panel on the generator floor, during the last year of construction. Show caption
Above: Construction workers installing the stator on unit 1 in 1975. Show caption
Above: Workers preparing the lower bracket installation on one of the units during initial construction. Show caption
Above: An image of the anchor block and powerhouse during construction in 1975. Show caption