OPG’s High Falls GS celebrates 100 years of clean power
In eastern Ontario, near the town of Perth, OPG’s High Falls Generating Station (GS) has been efficiently producing clean, reliable power for the province for decades.
This year, the three-unit, three-megawatt station on the Mississippi River celebrates its 100th birthday.
“Much of the equipment in this beautiful station is more or less original,” said John McCaig, Manager of Work Centre – Maintenance at OPG’s Campbellford Work Centre, which services the plant. “These original units just keep humming along. With continued periodic maintenance, High Falls will operate for many more years.”
Indeed, aside from updated electrical parts and a stainless steel penstock that replaced the original wooden penstock in the early 1950s, many of the components inside High Falls GS date back to 1920, the year it first went into service.
That’s a true testament to the work that went into the station more than a century ago. It wasn’t an easy construction project by any stretch.
The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, OPG’s predecessor, started development of the station in December 1918. The company initially had difficulty finding enough labourers, and had to recruit local farmers and men from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
Frequent power interruptions and a flood in the fall of 1919 further hampered progress. To keep things on schedule, one of the station’s units had to be housed under a tarp until the main powerhouse was completed.
Despite its difficult birth, High Falls GS has lasted the test of time.
Today, the station continues to undergo necessary corrective and preventive maintenance to ensure it can continue to provide carbon-free power. A planned outage at the station wrapped up this summer and a major dam safety project is planned for the station in 2021.
Currently, logs are manually lifted from sluicegates at the station’s dam to control water flows. New dam safety requirements call for more water to be able to pass through the station’s four sluicegates in the case of a flood. Next year’s project will aim to build a new system capable of pulling more logs from the station’s sluicegates to meet the updated requirements.
McCaig’s team has also recently been deploying a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, or drone, to inspect the exterior of the station during their visits to the facility.
“We’ve been using the drone to thoroughly inspect High Falls, flying over the exterior and roof, looking for cracks and falling or loose material. We want to make sure the station structure itself is still safe as it gets older,” said McCaig.
So far, so good.