Hydro seeking an overhaul of 'cornerstone' power plant
BC Hydro says it needs to spend $386 million replacing turbines
The "cornerstone" generating station in British Columbia's electricity system is in "poor health" due to the age and risk of failure among its oldest turbines.
BC Hydro says it needs to spend up to $386 million to replace half the original turbines installed 40 years ago at Gordon M. Shrum generating station on the Peace River, alongside W.A.C. Bennett Dam.
Shrum accounts for 30 per cent of the electricity Hydro produces each year, and the relative health of the facility "has an impact on the security of the province's electricity supply," according to a Hydro newsletter this month.
Hydro wants to replace Shrum's five oldest turbines -- a total of 10 were installed between 1968 and 1980 -- with new, more efficient custom-built units.
It may eventually seek a new water licence to support expanded power production capacity -- an action which could push Hydro into a full-blown environmental assessment of the massive, 2,730-megawatt facility.
"Thirty per cent of anything we produce comes from GMS," Hydro media relations manager Susan Danard said in an interview. "This is the first major refurbishment or replacement of the turbines since it was built."
Hydro is already undertaking a number of updates at Shrum, worth a total of $190 million.
A major turbine overhaul will require approval of the B.C. Utilities Commission because the value of the project exceeds $50 million.
"The project is being undertaken to ensure ongoing reliability, availability and operational flexibility of these units," the Crown corporation says.
Last year, Hydro senior vice-president Chris O'Riley testified at a hearing before the utilities commission that Hydro's 80-year-old Ruskin generating station on Stave River near Mission was held together with "tape and twine" and was one of a number of Hydro heritage assets in need of modernization.
O'Riley, who was out of town and unavailable for comment on Monday, told The Vancouver Sun in an earlier interview that the Crown corporation has added 430 employees in the past two years in preparation for accelerated renewal of the system.
At Shrum, Hydro proposes to replace one turbine each year beginning in
Two companies, Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation and Andritz Hydro Power Canada, are currently doing design and modelling work, but a single turbine manufacturer will be announced next year.
"It's not a done deal," Danard said. "We have to go to the commission because it is a significant investment. But we do feel we have a good rationale for doing it. To a large degree it is just aging components.
"There was a time when Hydro was on the move, building lots of things under W.A.C. Bennett, and we would argue that in a way this is a little renaissance. We are not building new facilities necessarily, but it's a significant overhaul. We are rehabilitating a facility that has been a cornerstone of our generating system for more than 40 years."
GORDON M. SHRUM GENERATING STATION
- A cornerstone of the BC Hydro system, located next to W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River in northeast B.C.
- The single largest source of power in the BC Hydro system, accounting for 30 per cent of Hydro's annual electricity production.
- Maximum sustained generating capacity of 2,730 megawatts.
- The first generating five units, which Hydro wants to replace, were installed by 1968, and all 10 at Shrum were in service by 1980.
- Estimated cost to replace the five units is between $243 million and
- Current capacity: 261 megawatts per turbine; proposed capacity: 305 megawatts.
- New efficient turbines will allow Hydro to generate more electricity -- 120 to 210 gigawatt hours per year, or enough to meet consumption of 11,000 to 19,000 households -- without using more water.