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Renewing Ontario's Electricity System

Archived Backgrounder

Renewing Ontario's Electricity System

The Niagara Tunnel Project will ensure a clean, renewable and modern electricity system that Ontarians can rely on for generations.

Niagara Tunnel Project

The Niagara Tunnel Project will divert water from the Niagara River and carry it to the Niagara Falls generating stations. When complete, it will allow Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to increase output at the Sir Adam Beck generating stations by about 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours. This means additional power for approximately 160,000 homes. The project is expected to be complete in 2013.

Niagara Tunnel Facts

  • The largest tunnel boring machine in the world, nicknamed "Big Becky", was used to drill the Niagara Tunnel. It measured 150 metres long and weighed about 4,000 tonnes - that's more than 800 elephants. 
  • Tunnel boring was completed in May 2011. The finished tunnel is 10.2 kilometres long and the diameter is 12.7 metres or as high as a four-storey building.
  • At its deepest the tunnel is 140 metres below the City of Niagara Falls. Water will propel through the tunnel at a rate of 500 cubic metres per second, fast enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in a matter of seconds.
  • 1.7 million cubic metres of rock has been excavated from the tunnel.
  • About 500,000 cubic metres of concrete will be used to line the tunnel - more than enough to build a sidewalk from Windsor to Quebec City.
  • When the Sir Adam Beck 1 power plant in Niagara Falls was completed in 1925, it was the largest generating station in the world.

Benefits of Hydroelectric Power

Ontario has been generating hydroelectric power for more than 100 years. In addition to being clean, renewable and cost-effective, hydroelectric power can respond to sudden changes in energy needs.  Facilities generally have long life cycles - usually 75 to 100 years or more.

Hydroelectric Power in Ontario

Power from hydroelectric facilities, including those at Niagara Falls, accounted for about 22 per cent of the electricity generated in Ontario in 2011. There are currently more than 170 hydroelectricity facilities province wide, with a total installed capacity of over 8,100 megawatts, which is expected to produce enough electricity each year to power more than three million Ontario homes.

OPG's Lower Mattagami project is the largest hydroelectric project in Northern Ontario in 40 years. When completed, the upgrades to four hydroelectric stations will add almost 440 megawatts of new capacity - enough power for approximately 300,000 homes. It will also create 800 construction jobs in northeastern Ontario.

Building a Clean Energy Future

In addition to investments in waterpower, the Ontario government is bringing on more sources of clean energy supply from wind, solar and bioenergy.

  • Since 2009, Ontario has attracted more than $27 billion in private-sector investment in the clean energy sector.
  • Ontario leads Canada in solar capacity and has the second-largest capacity in North America after California. When it was built in 2010, Enbridge's 80 MW Sarnia Solar Project was the world's largest operational solar photovoltaic farm.
  • In 2003, Ontario had only 10 wind turbines. Today the province has more than 1,000 wind turbines and is home to Canada's five largest wind farms.
  • Ontario had no commercial solar projects online in 2003. Today almost 14,000 micro-scale solar projects are connected to the grid (owned by homeowners, farmers, co-operatives, municipalities, schools and places of worship), along with a total of more than 400 small and large solar photovoltaic projects.
  • Currently 46 bio-energy facilities (biogas, biomass and landfill gas) operate in Ontario, contributing about 250 megawatts of capacity.
  • By the end of 2014, the McGuinty government will replace dirty coal-fired generation with clean energy, which is comparable to removing up to 7 million cars off Ontario's roads.

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