1000 Megawatts of Run-of-River Hydro on Tap for British Columbia
photo by Alistair Howard
When most people think of hydro-electric power they probably think of large dam projects such as China’s Three Gorges Dam, India’s dams on the Narmada River , or closer to home (at least to my home) the Hoover Dam. Perhaps needless to say, big hydro-electric projects like this can generate a great deal of power, but there are significant environmental trade offs.
A Less Intrusive Way to Develop Hydro-Electric PowerA less environmentally intrusive way to develop hydro power is known as run-of-river hydro—skip down if you’re unfamiliar with how this works—and more of this is just what’s being planned for British Columbia. Plutonic Power and GE Financial Services have signed a memorandum of understanding that will have the two developing 1000 MW of run-of-rive hydro-electric capacity. At a total cost of approximately USD 4-billion, the Upper Toba Valley Project will consist of of three sites totaling 120 MW, while the Bute Inlet Project will consist of 18 sites for 900 MW of capacity.
GE will contribute $70 million for a 50% stake in the Upper Toba Valley Project; $650 million for a 60% interest in the Bute Inlet Project.
Both projects are being submitted for BC Hydro’s Clean Power Call, which is part of British Columbia’s greater goal of having at least 90% of the province’s electricity come from clean or renewable sources by 2016.
image: Plutonic Power Corp.
So How Does Run-of-River Work?Plutonic Power describes run-of-river hydro as well as anyone:
Unlike traditional hydroelectric facilities, which flood large areas of land, run-of-river projects do not require any damming of water. Instead, some of the water is diverted from a river, and sent into a pipe called a penstock. The penstock feeds the water downhill to a generating station. The natural force of gravity creates the energy required to spin the turbines that in turn generate electricity. The water leaves the generating station and is returned to the river without altering the existing flow or water levels.
Plutonic Power's run-of-river projects have been located on streams with natural waterfalls that act as barriers for fish, thus greatly minimizing negative impacts on fish and wildlife habitat.
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