Paul Sawyer from InPower BC, and Stephen Watson from BC Hydro, stand beside the newly commissioned John Hart Generator 3. Photo courtesy BC Hydro

First new generator at John Hart Dam ready to spin

BC Hydro says $1.093 billion project is still on budget and on schedule

The transition from the old John Hart generating station to the new underground facility reached another important milestone on July 21 when the first of the three new turbines and generators officially went into service, according to Stephen Watson of BC Hydro.

“Electricity from the new generator can now flow to the John Hart substation and on to the wider power grid,” Watson says. “Four years ago this month we celebrated with our contractor, the provincial government, and local community leaders, the beginning of this massive project. We’ve come a long way and now we have our first of the three turbine/generator units now available to provide power – it’s fantastic.”

BC Hydro will continue to provide downstream Campbell River flows through the old generating station and the new underground facility until the new facility is commissioned in October.

Contractor InPower BC, led by SNC-Lavalin with team members Aecon, Frontier-Kemper, General Electric and others, excavated and built the new powerhouse cavern and 2.2 km water conveyance tunnel that leads from the John Hart reservoir to the Campbell River. General Electric and subcontractor FMI then began work on the electrical and operating commissioning of the three new turbines/generators.

“This marks the second of three key dates we have been targeting since 2014 and we’re proud this team has achieved it with their hard work and ingenuity,” says InPower BC CEO, Paul Sawyer. “It’s taken many hours by many people, and we’re thankful for everyone’s contributions.”

“This project keeps hitting significant milestones,” said North Island MLA and Minister of Transportation, Claire Trevena. “The first generator/turbine to go online is a big achievement. Congratulations to BC Hydro and the InPower BC team that have been working together so closely on this project. After following this project for so long, including going underground to see it take shape, I am really looking forward to seeing the commissioned facility this fall.”

In April, water was introduced into the 2.2 kilometres of underground tunnels. In the beginning of May, the new valves on the downstream side of the John Hart dam to give BC Hydro more downstream water management abilities, and the new water bypass facility within the powerhouse to protect downstream fish habitat from unplanned river flow reductions, went into service. The next two generators and turbines will be online in October. The new underground powerhouse is taking over from the old six-unit generator powerhouse and will see a near 10% increase in power output using the same amount of water flow. The gain in output is achieved from modern equipment efficiencies.

“The project’s three goals was to get a more seismically strong generating station facility, maintain reliability of clean power generation, and protect downstream fish habitat, and it will do just that,” Watson says. “We’re very pleased to see this progress and even more importantly, that the project just surpassed 3.2 million person hours of work without a lost time accident. That’s a tremendous achievement.”

On September 16, BC Hydro and InPower BC will co-host a sold-out community site event and allow 1,240 people to see the underground powerhouse.

The $1.093 billion John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project is on budget and on schedule for facility commissioning in October, Watson says. Work will then begin and go through summer 2019 on the decommissioning and removal of the old facilities.

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