A huge construction project has been taking place in Niagara Falls, Ontario since 2005. The Mighty Niagara river’s energy output, far from being completely tapped out, is again being tapped for a tremendous additional amount of new electrical (hydro) power.
Canada has decided to claim its final share of the river’s power. (The USA harnessed its share in the 50’s with the Robert Moses project.) In 2004, the Ontario Government announced that Ontario Power Generation has been given approval to proceed with the 3rd tunnel under the City of Niagara Falls.
The first two tunnels were built during the 1950’s. In 2005 Ontario Power Generation (OPG) began construction of the $600 million dollar hydro tunnel which is well underway at the present time.
The new 6.4 mile tunnel will run under the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario from the upper Niagara River to the Sir Adam Beck Power Stations at Queenston at a maximum depth of 140 meters (459 feet).
This third tunnel project is expected to be one of the largest tunnels ever built in North America. The new tunnel will parallel the existing water tunnels but at a lower depth. The current tunnels reach a maximum depth of 100 meters (328 feet). Currently, Canada’s Sir Adam Beck Power Group generates 2,080 megawatts. Approximately 1,800 cubic meters (63,566 cubic feet) of water per second from the existing twin tunnels and the hydro canal supply the Sir Adam Beck Stations.
The new tunnel will generate power equal to 215 – 2.5 MW wind turbines.
The new tunnel will divert an additional 500 cubic meters (17,657 cubic feet) of water per second and produce an annual ouput of 1600 Gigawatts of electricity. That is equivalent to the annual output of 215 – 2.5 megawatt wind turbines, producing electricity at 34% capacity, (.85MW) such as are installed in Lackawanna, NY.
The capital cost alone of 215 of the 2.5 MW turbines @ $1,000,000 per MW would be about $215 million compared to $600 million for the new Niagara Ontario Tunnel. This only shows the installed capital costs of the wind turbines at 34% efficiency. There are many other cost factors that must be included to get the whole economic picture of wind turbine power production but these figures seem to indicate the wind turbine’s costs in a favorable light when comparing it with the new Niagara tunnel.
The new tunnel will be 14.4 meters (47.2 feet) in diameter and will be one of the largest in the world. In comparison it will be 2½ times the size of the Toronto Subway tunnel and 1½ times the size of the English Channel tunnels. The tunnel project will increase the amount of water flowing to existing turbines at OPG’s Sir Adam Beck generating stations in Niagara Falls, allowing the stations to utilize available water more effectively.
By September 2007, the tunnel boring machine had advanced 1,028 metres. The progress of the tunnel boring machine through a fractured rock formation has been slower than expected. As a result, the contractor’s forecast completion date has been delayed from late 2009 to around 2010 or 2011.
Considerable uncertainty remains with respect to the schedule until the tunnel boring machine advances sufficiently beyond the St. David’s Gorge to approximately 2,300 metres and establishes consistent tunneling performance. Potential deviation from the original project completion schedule approved by OPG’s Board of Directors of June 2010 will be assessed at that point.
The combination of the tremendous harnessed energy of the Niagara River plus the vast fresh waters of the Great lakes has made the the Niagara Frontier area of New York and Canada extremely rich in “green” energy and fresh water resources. In addition to these resources, the kinetic energy of the river current such as is presently being harnessed in the East river around New York City, hasn’t even been tapped yet while the kenetic wind energy has just begun to be harnessed with the 8 – 2.5 MW turbines recently coming on line in Lackawanna, NY.
Harnessing the kenetic energy of both the wind and river current has the potential to add much more electrical power to the already rich “green” energy of the Niagara Frontier.