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OPG’s Nancy England helps keep R.H. Saunders GS running smoothly

From refurbishing massive cranes to replacing mercury light bulbs with new LEDs, OPG’s Nancy England is proud of her role in keeping the R.H. Saunders Generating Station (GS) in Cornwall a well-oiled, clean power machine.

Nancy England, Project Site Manager at R.H. Saunders Generating Station
Nancy England, Project Site Manager at R.H. Saunders Generating Station

With 16 units spanning the St. Lawrence River, the 1,045-megawatt facility is one of the largest hydro stations in Ontario. As Project Site Manager, England is leading various key tasks to help keep the plant running as efficiently as possible.

“I get to marvel at this station every day,” she said. “When you’re repairing parts of a 62-year-old station, you appreciate what they were able to accomplish back in the day with the St. Lawrence River Power Project. To be able to help sustain what they built is pretty cool.”

With an engineering degree from Guelph University, England started at OPG in 2009 with the water resources department. She then joined the Central Hydro Plant Group headquartered in North Bay in 2010, where she worked in the operations department. With nine watersheds and 26 hydro stations, some over a hundred years old, there was a lot to oversee and many federal and provincial agencies to deal with.

“I loved visiting all 26 stations. It was very rewarding,” England said. “You act as a steward of those facilities. What we do for Ontario, it fits in with what I believe in and my understanding of the environmental footprint we have.”

This formative period helped prepare England for her move to OPG’s Eastern Operations in 2016, where she helped oversee the consolidation of the region’s control rooms into the Eastern Operations control centre at R.H. Saunders.

She has been in her current role at Saunders for about a year. After a short period of project demobilization due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have gotten significantly busier for England and the team of skilled trades and contractors who execute projects around the station, from the headworks to the sub-basement of the plant.

One of the massive headworks cranes at R.H. Saunders GS.
One of the massive headworks cranes at R.H. Saunders GS.

There are now more than 10 projects on the go at the site, including the construction of a new security building to replace the 1950s-era structure that was recently demolished. Other projects include work on lighting, roof drains, elevators, and replacing the station’s sump valves and dewatering pumps. Another major project involves updating the tailrace deck of all 16 units, which has involved pouring new concrete almost half-a-kilometre across the station.

Another part of her job is working with OPG’s U.S. counterpart, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), which operates the Moses Power Dam, part of the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project, on the U.S. side of the shared dam. Several joint works projects are undertaken between the two companies to ensure smooth operations on both sides of the border. A project with international implications was the recent replacement of the massive gantry headworks and tailrace cranes. The new cranes were installed with the ability to travel across the border to be used by both stations.

“It has been super busy and super challenging, but I've really learned a lot, especially from my team who have been willing to teach me,” England said. “Our biggest challenge is that we don’t want our work to interrupt the station’s production and impact maintenance staff. And we’ve been able to do that for the most part.”

For England, it has been particularly rewarding to be able to re-engage her engineering skills and training in her new role.

She has been keeping those skills sharp outside of work as well, having started a basement and backyard renovation at her home this past spring to keep her busy through the pandemic.

Employee spotlight: Nancy England

Position: Project Site Manager
Work location: R.H. Saunders Generating Station
Years of service: 11
Favourite spot to visit in Ontario: Halls Lake
Favourite movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
Favourite hobbies: Golf, renovations, watching sports with friends and family