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BC Hydro completes new Aberfeldie Generating Station

New station has close to five times capacity of old site

CRANBROOK – BC Hydro has completed the $95-million redevelopment of the Aberfeldie Generating Station, located on the Bull River, 35 kilometres east of Cranbrook. The dam and generating station is now completely operational and generating electricity during the 2009 freshet.

The Aberfeldie Redevelopment Project is part of BC Hydro's Resource Smart program, and includes a new powerhouse with an approximate capacity of 24 megawatts. The project also includes a new surge tower and switchyard, a new penstock, as well as improvements to the existing water intake, dam and access road.

"Investing in this heritage asset will assist in helping to meet our current and future energy demand in British Columbia," said Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The Aberfeldie Dam and Generating facility will now produce enough energy to supply 10,500 residential customers annually. "This reduces BC Hydro's need for importing additional energy and supports BC Hydro's purpose – reliable power at low cost for generations."

The original Aberfeldie station was only a five megawatt generating facility. It was constructed in 1922 and parts of it were rebuilt in 1953. The wood stave penstock and major generating equipment had reached their end of life and were no longer serviceable.

The original station ceased operation in October 2006 in preparation for its redevelopment, which received British Columbia Utilities Commission approval in February of 2007. The project was completed with the support and efforts of the Ktunaxa Nation, regulatory agencies, local government, Knight Piesold Limited, Western Versatile Construction Corp., Andritz VA Tech Hydro Canada Ltd., local contractors, stakeholders and BC Hydro employees.

"BC Hydro worked with all of these groups to identify and address all of the environmental impacts of the project to the highest environmental standards," said Bob Elton, BC Hydro President and CEO. "The project also included the signing of an agreement with Ktunaxa Nation that included contract work and employment opportunities."

To minimize the project's impact on fish and wildlife, disturbed areas were re-vegetated to a natural state and a side channel for fisheries and aquatic life was constructed downstream of the new powerhouse. "The side channel will compensate for habitat impacts related to the change in flow in the section of the Bull River between the Aberfeldie Dam and Generating Station," said Doug Baker, BC Hydro Project Manager. "BC Hydro will release minimum flows year round to ensure habitat is available in the canyon between the dam and powerhouse during the winter low-flow period."

Media can download photos of the construction of the new Aberfeldie Generating Station and a photo of the historic facility by going to our Facilities Image Library.

Media may request raw footage by contacting Dag Sharman, BC Hydro Media Relations, 604 623 4022.


Diane Tammen
East Kootenay Community Relations
Phone: 250 489 6862

Dag Sharman
Media Relations
Phone: 604 623 4022


Quick Facts – Aberfeldie Generating Station

  • Until 2007, the Aberfeldie facility consisted of an in-basin diversion, including the intake dam, a wood stave penstock, a surge tank, and a steel penstock leading to a concrete powerhouse that contained two 2.5-megawatt generating units dating back to 1922.
  • The new powerhouse has three 8.3-megawatt units, increasing annual energy production from 35 gigawatt hours annually to 105 gigawatt hours annually – a threefold increase.
  • A total of 341 people were employed on the project for about four and half months each. Over the course of the construction work, 122 person years of full time employment were created.
  • The Aberfeldie facility is a run-of-river plant so there is no storage upstream of the dam. The water that enters the plant at the intake dam is returned to the Bull River at the powerhouse tailrace. The redeveloped plant will not alter river flows or levels upstream or downstream of the facility.
  • However, water flow between the intake dam and powerhouse will change to significantly reduce the amount of spillage. With the old powerhouse, only 20 per cent of the annual river flow was utilized to make energy and 80 per cent of the flow went over the spillway. With the new powerhouse, 80 per cent of the flow will be utilized to make energy and only 20 per cent will go over the spillway.
  • Environmental benefits of the project include:
    • The new penstock is buried, replacing the above-ground penstock that impeded the movement of wildlife.
    • An Environmental Bypass Facility located at the powerhouse is designed to pass up to 50 per cent of the water flow in the event that one of more of the powerhouse units suddenly stops operating to minimize changes in downstream water levels, reducing the risk of fish stranding.
    • Areas disturbed during construction have been or will be re-vegetated with native plant species to improve forage opportunities for wildlife, such as bighorn sheep.
    • A 3,200 square-meter fish and aquatic habitat was constructed downstream of the powerhouse.
    • BC Hydro is committed to releasing minimum flows from the intake dam into the Bull River on a year-round basis to ensure that sufficient flow is always available to maintain the river habitat between the intake dam and the powerhouse. The water will support the growth of algae and invertebrates, providing food for fish in the summer and enabling spring and fall fish migrations.