The world’s largest producer of hydropower is currently China, followed by Canada. Both are large countries with a large hydropower potential still untapped and evaluated for use. Canada is now set to exploit more of this potential, one major reason being the demand for clean energy from the U.S.
This could boost Canada’s economy and at the same time support the plan to wean the country off coal-fired power
Currently Canada has 475 hydropower plants with an installed capacity of 70,000 MW, and produces about 355 TWh of hydropower per year. It has been estimated by the Canadian Hydropower Association that Canada has another 163,000 MW of untapped hydropower potential which is more than twice the country’s existing hydropower capacity.
While countries such as Norway or Iceland are producing close to 100% of their electricity demand through hydro, Canada’s hydro plants account for around 60% of its electricity consumption. This percentage is to rise soon with new plants installed and more coal-power stations closed down. Canadian politicians are strongly supportive of the hydropower development and policies that will encourage further development.
Colin Clark, chairman of the Canadian Hydropower Association said that there is proof in the actual progress and execution of projects which are happening now. It’s more than just proposals and talk.
A few of these projects that encourage those hoping to deliver a much higher percentage of clean electricity are outlined below:
- Manitoba Hydro’s Wuskwatim Project, a 200-MW run-of-river generating station under construction on the Burntwood River in northern Manitoba, will begin generating power late in 2011. Constructions began 2006 and include a 30 mile access road as well as new transmission lines. The project is worth C$1.3 billion.
- The Mica project, one of the largest earthfill dams in the world has been generating power since 1977. Now BC Hydro is adding two 500 MW generators to the powerhouse at a cost of about C$1 billion. Environmental assessment for the expansion was approved by regulators in April 2010 after a two-and-a-half-year review. Once the additional units are up and running, they will boost the plant’s capacity by 55% to 2,085 MW from 1,085 MW which is the capacity of the four old generators. The expansion has always been included in the plan and the plant has been designed to hold six units. Now number 5 and 6 are being installed.
- After three years of construction, Plutonic Power recently completed the $663 million Toba-Montrose run-of-river project, the largest source of privately generated renewable power in British Columbia. Construction of the 196 MW project took three years. The run-river- project includes two separate facilities connected to BC Hydro’s grid by a 93-mile transmission line.
Impressive projects like these will be necessary to supply the serious amount of electricity that is required to cover growing demand as well as to substitute fossil-fuel fired power plants. However, it is important to keep in mind other considerations such as land-rights of local village populations and farmers. In Canada much of the hydropower potential can be used without dislocating people and hydropower stations of that scale do make sense, especially since electric power can be transmitted over long distances and borders and support climate as well as economy. And after all, this is crucial for projects to gain the necessary acceptance from all parties.