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FortisBC Upper Bonnington plant earns recognition in Hydro Review’s Hydro Hall of Fame

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
June 14th, 2018

It was more than 100 years ago when hydro-electric pioneers decided to dam the Kootenay River near Bonnington to build a hydroelectric generation plant.

Now, after years of operation, the oldest of FortisBC’s four generation facilities along the Kootenay River has earned international recognition in Hydro Review’s Hydro Hall of Fame.

"(The) program recognizes extraordinary hydro achievement throughout the world, with a special emphasis on long-lasting facilities," said Nicole Bogdanovic of FortisBC.

However, FortisBC realzies being more than 100 years old, upgrades are necessary in maintaining long-term assets like the Upper Bonnington Generation Station, the oldest of FortisBC’s four generation facilities along the Kootenay River.

"Upper Bonnington, which was important to the region’s early economic development, continues to be an important source of clean energy for customers today," a FortisBC media release said.

"FortisBC’s predecessor, West Kootenay Power, built the original powerhouse in 1907 to support the region’s mining industry. They added two units in 1916 and two more in 1939. A rigorous annual inspection and maintenance program has ensured that all six units continue to operate today."

FortisBC is in year two of a five-year, $30 million refurbishment project to bring the original four units to modern day safety and environmental standards. As part of this project, FortisBC will replace the systems that run the units and will refurbish and put back in service many of the core components. These are the last of FortisBC’s 15 units to be upgraded.

"This project provides our skilled union trades with a unique opportunity to bring 100-year-old technology to modern-day standards," FortisBC said. "Right now, running the original units is a manual process that requires three skilled tradespeople about two hours following a 50-step process. Once each unit is rebuilt, FortisBC can operate the units remotely with the touch of a button from a centralized control centre. FortisBC’s crews have completed work on the first unit last year and now have work underway on the second unit."

Hydro Review has been inducting legacy facilities in the Hydro Hall of Fame since 1995, designating plants that have been operating continuously for 100 years or more.

Together, this prestigious group demonstrates the long-lasting and significant contributions of hydroelectric plants, including clean renewable power, emission-free generation and reliability.

Members of FortisBC’s generation staff will accept the award at HydroVision International in Charlotte, North Carolina, on June 26.

Quick facts

  • Upper Bonnington Generation Plant has a total rated capacity of 65 megawatts (87,000 HP) at a rated head of 21 metres. The entitlement capacity of the plant is 66 megawatts.
  • The four original units at Upper Bonnington, which operate annually during freshet, are the last of FortisBC’s 15 units to be modernized. FortisBC upgraded the other 11 units between 1998 and 2011.
  • The project started in 2017 and will be completed in 2021 with one unit rebuilt per year. The total estimated capital cost of the project is $31.78 million with a rate impact of 0.61 per cent.
  • FortisBC four generating plants along the Kootenay River provide about 45 per cent of the annual electricity supplied to its customers.
  • Power purchase agreements with other producers in the region such as BC Hydro, and Columbia Power Corp meet an additional 45 per cent. Spot market and contracted purchases from Powerex meet the remaining 10 per cent. That means at least 90 per cent of FortisBC’s electricity is generated in B.C. from hydroelectric dams or other non-carbon energy sources, mostly from the Columbia Basin.
  • FortisBC owns four hydro-electric generating plants on the Kootenay River with an installed capacity of 225 MW. They are the Corra Linn, Upper Bonnington, Lower Bonnington, and South Slocan Plants.

FortisBC operates and maintains five generating plants with a total generating capacity of 1,322 MW:

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