Hydro project powers on, cold be dammed

Renewable electricity has started being produced at the Keeyask Generating Station in Manitoba, Canada, six-months ahead of the project’s control schedule. A lesson in extreme cold weather concreting, the milestone was achieved through innovative logistics measures and tools employed by the joint venture team of Bechtel Canada, Montana-based Barnard Construction Co. and Canadian contractor EllisDon.

The mega-project involves massive cast-in-place concrete structures—chiefly a seven-bay spillway and a 695-MW, seven-unit powerhouse/service bay complex—totaling more than 345,000 cubic yards. Work has been done year-round through sub-arctic winters (down to -40°C), which is when extreme cold weather concrete was placed, and more recently through the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a significant milestone in this iconic renewable project. Producing electricity six-months ahead of schedule whilst navigating the challenges of COVID-19 is a tremendous accomplishment and testament to the dedication of each and every member of the Keeyask team,” says Kelvin Sims, Bechtel’s Infrastructure general manager, Americas.

Project officials note that a further six units will be added in the coming months. When completed, the plant will produce an average of 4,400-gigawatt-hours of electricity per year—enough to power 400,000 homes. The electricity generated at Keeyask will not only power homes and businesses in Manitoba, but also allow Manitoba Hydro to meet its export commitments in both Canada and the United States.

“This accomplishment is the result of a massive, coordinated team effort between Manitoba Hydro, our Keeyask Cree Nation partners, contractors, trade unions, and every person that has worked on our project. We should all be proud of what we have achieved on our Keeyask Project. It has taken hard work, perseverance and overcoming multiple challenges from all involved,” says Manitoba Hydro.

The Keeyask Generation Project is a collaborative effort being undertaken by the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership—a partnership between Manitoba Hydro and four partner First Nations: Tataskweyak Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation, York Factory First Nation and Fox Lake Cree Nation. The generating station is located on the Nelson River approximately 30 kilometers west of Gillam, in the Split Lake Resource Management Area and within the ancestral homeland of the four partner First Nations.