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Sturgeon Falls hydroelectric station marks 100 years of power generation

Crystal Falls Generating Station first went into service in 1921
Photo courtesy OPG

Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Crystal Falls Generating Station (GS) is celebrating 100 years of producing clean power for the province.

Located on the Sturgeon River near Sturgeon Falls, about 30 minutes west of North Bay, the four-unit, eight-megawatt hydroelectric station first went into service back in 1921.

“Crystal Falls GS has a proud history and continues to produce low-emission and reliable power for Ontarians,” said Nicolle Butcher, OPG’s senior vice-president of renewable generation and power marketing, in a release.

“We’re committed to maintaining this legacy asset, along with our entire hydro fleet, to ensure we can meet our ambitious climate change goals in the coming years.”

There's a lot of history to go along with this station.  

Construction on the plant began in May 1920. To facilitate the arrival of materials, three kilometres of spur track was built on the Canadian Northern Railway to the powerhouse site.

Originally called Smoky Falls GS, the facility was first owned by the Spanish River Pulp and Paper Company. In 1937, OPG’s predecessor company, the Hydro-Electric Power Company of Ontario, purchased and began operating the station

At the time, the public utility purchased the site to provide additional power to support Sudbury’s mining operations and the growing demands from the Nipissing area.

On May 1, 1979, the station and surrounding area were hit with a record flood that saw the Sturgeon River rise 19 metres above normal levels. The one-in-300-year flood deluged the nearby community of Field, a once-thriving sawmill town, and forced hundreds from their homes.

In 1987, the station’s main dam was rehabilitated and the station was automated the same year. Beginning in 1988, more than 60 years after going into service, the station’s units underwent major overhauls with stator rewinds and thrust bearing and turbine bearing replacements.

Beginning again in 2011, the units entered another overhaul program, with Unit 1 completed in 2014 and Unit 2 finished in 2017. Unit 4’s overhaul is scheduled to be completed this year and Unit 3 is set to wrap up in 2022.

These latest overhauls are part of the company’s $2.5-billion turbine/generator overhaul program, which will see OPG’s hydro generating units refurbished or repaired to ensure efficient and reliable operation for decades to come. The overhauls will also help secure low-carbon power for Ontario to support OPG’s net-zero carbon goals outlined in its Climate Change Plan.

– BayToday