Ontario Completes Renewable Energy Tunnel Project

Just under two years ago, Energy Refuge went to Ontario for a conference on water technology. At the time, we visited the site of the Niagara Tunnel Project, when a hard-rock tunnel boring machine had finally broken through the other side.

Now, the Ontario government has just finished the project, which is estimated to provide clean power for 100 years. The new tunnel is more than six miles long (10 km) and channels additional water from the Niagara River to flow to the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station at a rate of 500 cubic metres (132,086 gallons) per second. This will supply Ontario with enough clean, renewable electricity to power 160,000 homes.

The largest hydroelectric project to come into service in Ontario for the past 50 years, the Niagara Tunnel Project is a significant provincial achievement. Building a clean, reliable energy system is part of Ontario’s plan to ensure we have the electricity we need to power the province’s homes, schools, hospitals and economy.

“This project is a source of pride as an engineering feat and as a practical solution for meeting Ontario’s energy needs through clean sources. The completion of this project will provide Ontario with a source of clean energy for the next 100 years,” said Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy.

The height of the tunnel equals to that of a four-story building. 653,000 cubic yards of concrete were used to line it, which would be enough for building a 1,000 kilometer (600 miles) sidewalk.

Since 2003, more than 360 megawatts of new, upgraded and refurbished waterpower projects have come online in Ontario, enough to power an estimated 240,000 households.

OPG says the new project remains one of the best value renewable energy initiatives in Ontario. OPG and contractor STRABAG agreed to a revised schedule in early 2009 due to difficult rock conditions, and have stayed true to both the schedule and budget. In fact, the project cost will be $100 million lower than the revised $1.6 billion cost, and the in-service date, March 9, is nine months sooner than projected in 2009.

Hydropower is a clean source of energy when it doesn’t require damming rivers and flooding over forests, which will then release carbon as they rot underwater. This project taps into the natural topography of Niagara Falls to produce power.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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