Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trethewey Creek Power Project, Inspection

   There have been several independent power projects (IPP) constructed in the area in the past five years. Fire, Stokke, and Douglas Creeks have been completed and producing power for the grid and sending hydro power off to parts unknown.
This year they have been working on another on Trethewey Creek, which flows into the top end of Harrison Lake. You have heard me go on about the small hydro system I have for power here, but these ones are on a much grander scale.   I've been dying to go have a look at an IPP under construction, and make sure they are doing it right, but you don't just wander in there expecting to get a tour around, even if the watershed was named after a relative, although I suppose they may have humoured me for a little longer before calling security and kicking me off the claim.
Back awhile my prayers were answered, and I received an invite to tour the project with some representatives of the InShuckch nation.
    Earlier today, after standing out on the driveway for about an hour in anticipation, several vans pulled into the yard, "Hello neighbor!" shouted Eppa, the chief negotiator out the window.
I wasted no time piling in, while it was still rolling I think, and headed straight for the back seat to sit with the rest of the troublemakers. The movers and shakers and decision makers from the InShuchch head office were along, and some important folks and elders from in valley here,...and me.
I think they invited me along to do the work if we got a flat tire or something actually.
   After about an hour of bouncing in our seats we arrived at the Tretheway project camp.

 Everyone piled out and ran and lined up at the washroom door, I took off way across the road and found a tree.
 They managed to round us all up afterwards for a safety meeting.

Jamie and Richard, top guys on site with Dent, the outfit doing the work, and Kristeen, the safety officer.

We followed the company truck on down the road and through the active job site, which extended several km up Trethewey Creek to the site of the intake dam. There were all variety of heavy equipment at work along the way and there were nose prints all over the inside of my window.
Trethewey Ck. intake dam under construction.
Looks like they don't need any of my advice around there.

The first phase of the job was to lay the pipeline, or what us IPP guys call the penstock.
The penstock sections big enough for Elanna inside were stored all over the Tippela airstrip during construction.

  I had been seeing theses trucks tearing by all season and wondered where they hauled from. Last July I was waiting at a road closure on the lake road and chatted up this driver from Spokane.  He told me the penstock sections came from Portland Oregon, one at a time, and at that point there had been over 300 trips.
The road took its toll on the trucks, and it wasn't unusual to come across parts and chunks of trucks on the road. This mudflap I had to stop to see if it was of any use to me. It wasn't, so I threw it in back and set it out at the end of my driveway. Pretty soon word got out on the truckers radios and soon one stopped out there, picked it up and gave a big grateful wave. 
Probably saved him a couple hundred bucks.
   The penstock sections were stored on the airstrip then taken up the mountain, set in place, in a particular order of course, welded together, buried in a trench, covered over, and the area reclaimed somewhat. We drove down the hill from the dam alongside the buried penstock, following it down to a point just above Harrison Lake. 

There the penstock ended, for the time being at least. 
The generator site under construction is down on the rugged shore of Harrison Lake.
This gives you an idea of the rugged country they work in. Once the generator station is in place, they will continue the penstock down the steep cut to power the turbines.
The power station site is accessible only by water, all the equipment is floated in there on a large barge big enough to carry 3 cement trucks at a time. Another IPP at Stokke Creek is directly across the lake, ready to go, when this site is completed, a submarine cable layed across the lake bottom from Stokke will connect to the grid here.
Looks like they are doing alright without me there too.

   We took lunch on the side of the road overlooking the lake, and I really dug into the egg salad sandwiches. I had a good chat with Jamie, the #2 man on the project, I thought he might have a few technical questions to run by me, but I guess he couldn't think of any right then. He did tell me the flow of water in the penstock when it is operating will be a little over 11,000 litres per second, and the penstock pipe was engineered for 50 years life, but in all probability could last 100 years. I asked him about the generator its self, made in Norway he said, and they special ordered two units at a cost of around $12m. Jamie is from New Zealand has been involved with the project from the start, and during his studies of the area and history he said he kept running across the Trethewey name. He was familiar with the logging and power line construction years ago, and my great grandad Joe who discovered the Providence mine on the shores of Harrison Lake, not far from where we had lunch. He said he had some friends that spent some time around the hot spring here and I guess he's heard about me some too. 
I didn't ask him to elaborate, just in case.

   The second part of the tour I was looking forward to the most. The Fire Creek IPP has been producing for 5 years now. It was a fairly steep road up to the dam site, and almost at the top the transmission in our van gave out. We re-sorted ourselves into the remaining vehicles and continued on our way.
 Fire Creek IPP intake.
The water flows over a stainless spillway to smooth out the flow, then over a stainless screen to filter out most anything but the water, fish included. That debris you can see is leaves hung up on the screen, they will wash off with increased water flow.

The penstock runs downhill for 4-5km to the power generation building at Tipella.

The water pressure turns this huge generator at 800 rpm.
Energex is the outfit that puts these projects together, and operates the working systems.

Some well meaning folks entitled to their opinon tend to get up in arms about these IPPs. They show up during construction taking videos and carrying on about the destruction of the habitat, which is an easy sell out there with some. Of course its going to look like hell, but come back in a few years, and it will look much different. In my opinion, considering the scope of the project, habitat disturbance on the long run, is minimal. Consideration of the creek and habitat is number one priority, and these projects would never get off the ground if that were not the case. There are independent environmental observers around all the time to make sure everything is done properly. Nature heals well, after a few years it grows back to the point someone driving up the Trethewey Creek road may not even realize they are driving next to a buried penstock.
The IPP's generate income for the local InShuckch people, provide jobs, and contribute towards road maintinace out here. If people want their gadgets they are going to need power to operate them, hydro is clean, green power for the future, and there are plans for several more projects in the area.
You might be using power from out here to charge your phone right now.


  1. G. Barry StewartJuly 15, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    An entertaining read, Robin.

    I came across your blogsite when I was looking for more info on IPPs. The Chilliwack papers ran a story on the grand opening of the plant, giving the stats.

    Trethewey costed out at "over" $100 million — though we're not told how far over. I'll assume closer to 100 than 200.

    Trethewey is pegged at 81 Gigawatt/hours of output per year, where Site C would produce 5,100 (63 times as much.)

    Site C's projected cost (sure to balloon): $8.8 billion.

    Cost of 63 Thretheweys: $6.3 billion. Interesting! (Though it might be tough to find that many sites to build on.)

  2. G. Barry StewartJuly 15, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    Further comment: I am totally in favour of IPPs in remote sites, where there is no connection to the main grid — or where the connection is subject to frequent interruptions. The IPP at Douglas is one such example, where diesel generators were the former option.

    That's where I stop my support, though. Douglas can keep all the power it makes. I don't want BC Hydro running any lines into remote areas to pick up relatively small units of power; it's hugely inefficient, is putting Hydro deep into debt — and is causing our rates to outstrip the inflation rate, unlike in Quebec or Manitoba.

    You may not know that BC Hydro doesn't choose to buy power from the IPPs: it has been forced to, by BC Liberal decree.

    Hydro has its own legacy dams, which produce all the power we need — yet these dams have been throttled back, while the IPPs have risen to producing 25% of our power.

    BC's demand for power has flat-lined for over a decade now. (I'll provide references at the end.)

    It would be one thing if IPP power cost the same as legacy dam power but that's not the case. These folks want to get their investment back and turn a good profit for investors, so the BC Liberals have guaranteed them rates of about 3x the market price for electricity.

    BC could be receiving their share of Columbia Treaty power from the USA — enough power that we wouldn't need Site C or IPPs for many decades — but the government says, "Naw… you can keep it. We'll just take the market price for it."

    They're saying, basically, "We don't want wholesale. We want to buy our power from boutiques."

    In 2015 alone, BC Hydro overpaid IPPs $672 million (over market price) for power they didn't need, as they could have produced it themselves. This will be an annual problem for decades to come.

    (I see the Trethewey contract is till 2055. By the way, did they say what happens after 2055… does the project get turned over to the province?)

    Lots of Hydro and IPP references here at Norm Farrell's site:

    BC Hydro in general:




  3. Thanks for the information Barry, thats interesting, sounds like you have done your homework on these.