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Hydro-Québec reduces dam use in the middle of the peak winter season

Between Montreal and Laval, the Rivière-des-Prairies hydroelectric power station has the capacity to supply 12,000 homes, through 52 MW power. But it only produces 13 MW These days, because four of the six turbines have been shut down for months. They need repair, and Hydro-Quebec is thinking more broadly about the plant’s future.

During this time, undisturbed water can be seen flowing through the spillway. A dam cannot store river runoff like the power of a reservoir. It’s his time Wasted energy, wasted energyAccording to a senior source in the state-owned company, he is not authorized to speak publicly.

Aerial view of the Rivière des Prairie Dam. We can clearly see the discharge of non-turbine water through the water discharge chute.

Image: Google Earth

Much further north, Quebec’s largest power plant isn’t delivering to its full potential either. According to an internal communication we obtained, a problem with the transformer is preventing the Robert Powers Generating Station (LG-2) from pumping its full power into the grid. Deficit 700 MW (12% of its capacity).

On Great-1 (LG-1), the number is 116 MW (8% of its capacity). I lost a lot of energy due to the constant repairs. No recovery is expected before February 7, when very cold days come, starting on Friday.

This scenario is far from ideal for Hydro-Québec, which strives to make repairs in the spring, summer and fall each year. According to a confidential document summarizing the production issuesHydro-Quebec must production maximization In winter.

We aim to reduce downtime in the long run [plus de trois jours] Between November 15th and March 31st in order to have enough energy to deal with the cold wave that may occur at any time. »

Quote from Hydro-Québec internal document

If the state company does not double its strength in anticipation of periods of high demand, that is, a hundred hours of very cold winter, it must reduce the quantities of electricity sold abroad, and thus say goodbye to the associated profits, which are particularly profitable in the winter period.

The La Grande-1 (LG-1) generating station is located near Chisasibi, in the James Bay region.

The La Grande-1 (LG-1) generating station is located near Chisasibi, in the James Bay region.

Photo: Hydro-Quebec

Hydro-Quebec reports that total capacity still reached 97.6% in mid-January, or about 900 megawatts of the production park’s 37,000 megawatts of installed capacity. But that was before the LG-2 struggled. It was not possible to get a newer update.

On Tuesday, both Minister for the Economy, Innovation and Energy Pierre Fitzgibbon and the state-owned company expressed the massive needs for additional energy. New industrial projects require 23,000 MW additional We don’t think we can satisfy most of them.

Is the maintenance deficit in question?

According to our sources in Mauritius, many dams are not working at full capacity due to obsolescence and lack of maintenance. For example, the La Gabelle power plant loses nearly half of its capacity (60 MW out of 131 MW) due to problems with the transformers connecting the station to the transmission network.

The La Trenche generating station in Mauritius is still missing out on a potential of 50 MW (16%), since October 2020 and other dams in the region are not 100% turbine.

Hydroelectric dam from the sky

La Gable generating station on the Saint-Maurice River

Photo: Hydro-Quebec

In Awais, according to the latest news, the Bresson generating station has not been able to deliver all of its power. loss 20 MWthat is, a third of its capacity.

Last month , Executive Director Resignation from Hydro-Québec acknowledged Sophie Brochu A Lack of investment in maintenance for 10-12 years in infrastructure.

In December, the Quebec Auditor General concluded: in a reportthat the government enterprise is not equipped to deal with the obsolescence of its assets, while the equipment to be replaced will continue to increase in the coming years.


According to the documents we obtained, the underutilization of the La Trenche power plant caused the public company to lose $1.1 million. The shortfall could be as high as $2.7 million for Rocher-de-Grand-Mer and about $3 million for La Gabelle.

The potential of the Rivière-des-Prairies generating station (52 MW) is likely to satisfy one or more of the 150 projects from 5 to 50 MW at the government table.

This dam also makes it possible to supply a large urban consumption center, without the challenges of transmitting electricity over very long distances.

“Normal” and “modest,” according to Hydro-Québec

It is normal that turbo generator sets are not in production at all times in our network, either for occasional maintenance reasons or because we do not need them due to demand.Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Francis Labbe explains.

Indeed, the production of electricity must at all times be equal to the demand, which fluctuates from hour to hour. »

Quote from Francis Labe, spokesperson for Hydro-Québec

However, in December, a spokesman for his colleague Maxence, Howard Lefevre, explained to us that The intake cycle of the turbine unit must take place outside [période de] Goal And We take advantage of periods of lower depreciation to carry out the work, and then put them back into service before the peak of winter.

A Hydro-Québec representative looks directly into the camera lens during a TV interview.

Maxence Huard-Lefebvre, spokesperson for Hydro-Québec.

Photo: Radio Canada

With respect to River des Prairie, Its production is (very) modest, despite its sizeHydro-Quebec explains. We think about the best scenario for its adoptionexplains the spokesperson. Analysis continues.

A complete shutdown is planned

According to documents obtained by Radio-Canada, Hydro-Québec is assessing the potential closure of half a dozen small power plants in Quebec, including

Closing Rivière-des-Prairies would cost money not only for Hydro-Quebec, but also for the carrier to write off assets (connected to the power plant) estimated at $20 million. According to a document from the Régie de l’énergie, a new substation and two new underground lines were installed in 2009.

“Waste,” according to an executive

Great source in the Incredible Crown responses communications department. if 50 MW It’s “humble,” talk to industrial customers who expect a power source, and they’ll appreciate it.

In the context of energy scarcity, small power plants become important, explains this framework. He remembers that Hydro-Québec had just bought it 13 dams in the United States for two billion dollars, And some of them have a power as small as 6 MW.

The awful aspect is the waste. On the flip side, people are told to consume less and be vigilant. »

Quote from One of the executives at Hydro-Quebec, who has confided in Radio Canada

For comparison, against over 1,000 MW Untapped, Hydro-Québec had a gain of 150 MW Thanks to dynamic pricing and 14 MW With Hilo.

maintenance to add strength

Hydro-Québec states that some of the maintenance work will make it possible to add power to existing power plants, It is an approach that will continue in the coming years.

We would like to start projects aiming to add 2000 MW of energy in our hydroelectric power plants by 2035explains Maxness spokesperson Howard Lefebvre.

He gives an example of the work that will be carried out at the La Trenche power plant, which will increase its capacity by about 50%. MW. This work will begin in 2024.

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