Energy Sources

Hydro

INTRODUCTION

Ontario Power Generation

Moving water is a simple source of energy. It turns the blades of a turbine, which powers a generator, producing electricity. The volume of water and the height from which it falls (the head) determine the turbine’s rotation speed.  

Canada generates 12% of the world’s hydroelectric power, making it the 3rd largest hydroelectric provider in the world in 2012. Over 60% of the electricity Canadians use is hydro energy. Most of this hydroelectricity comes from mega projects located across the country, but Canada is also investing in smaller run-of-river projects that use natural water currents and eliminate the need for massive dams and reservoirs. Canada is the third largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.

 

HARNESSING HYDRO

Damless hydro does not divert rivers, does not change water levels and has much less effect on biodiversity and fish population than hydroelectric power plants that rely on reservoirs. In addition, damless hydro is less expensive and uses fewer resources than conventional hydro developments.

Canada’s land features are well suited for hydropower. For example, rivers that flow into the Canadian Shield - an area of rugged terrain and large river systems that stretches from Hudson Bay to Labrador and from the Great Lakes to the Arctic - account for one-third of Canada’s total hydroelectric capacity which supplies 61% of the electric power Canadians use.  This reliance on hydroelectricity is unique in the world. Most regions in Canada produce hydropower!

USING HYDRO

BC Hydro / Dag Sharman

BC Hydro

Hydroelectricity provides 90% of the power used in Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador. Hydropower is produced in every province and territory, except Prince Edward Island. 

The province of Quebec is the country’s largest producer of hydroelectricity, with 93 per cent of its electricity produced by hydroelectric facilities. Almost half of our country’s hydroelectric capacity is found in this province.

The province of Saskatchewan houses a number of hydroelectric facilities - 7 to be exact! These facilities generate 853 megawatts of electricity! 

The average home in Canada consumes about 1000 Kilowatt hours of electricity per month, this electricity is primarily powered by hydro dams. 

Opportunities

  • Very efficient, converts 90% of hydropower into electricity
  • Facilities are well-constructed and durable
  • Hydropower is renewable and abundant
  • Stored in reservoirs, water can produce hydro energy “on demand”  
  • Cost-effective and relatively inexpensive to the customer  
  • Canada has extensive, undeveloped water reserves 
  • Operating costs are low 
  • Run-of-river facilities do not modify rivers and have a much lower impact on the environment than reservoirs and dams 
  • Canadians are world renowned hydroelectricity experts
  • Waterfowl benefits from the creation of reservoirs 
  • River control can prevent flooding
  • Well-accepted by the public

Challenges 

  • Dam construction is expensive   
  • Run-of-river facilities do not offer “on demand” energy
  • Dams are barriers to fish migration 
  • Turbines injure or kill fish, especially eels
  • Mercury levels rise in flooded areas and stay elevated for 10-30 years
  • Dams change a river’s ecosystem, affecting plants and animals
  • Dams halt the natural distribution of nutrient-rich sediments to vegetation
  • Decaying matter in reservoirs produces carbon dioxide and methane
  • Some animals, especially bats, suffer from mercury poisoning 
  • Dams alter erosion patterns, acoustics and even the scent of the air 
  • Of all energy sources, hydro has caused the greatest immediate loss of life because of dam failures

 

This page contains content provided by: Ingenium, Centre for Energy, Seeds Foundation, Canadian Electricity Association, Canada Hydro