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Last Site C turbine arrives at dam site

Milestone 11,000-kilometre journey from Brazil completed early Friday morning
The last of six turbine runners for the Site C dam arrived on site early morning Jan. 27, 2023.

The last of six turbine runners built for the Site C dam has arrived on site, BC Hydro said Friday.

Spokesman Bob Gammer said the milestone 11,000-kilometre journey from Brazil was completed earlier this morning.

The machinery was shipped from Sao Paulo, and made its final leg to the Peace River outside Fort St. John by truck, travelling 1,000 kilometres from the Port of Prince Rupert to the dam site, Gammer said.

“The turbine runner is the rotating part of the turbine that converts the gravitational energy of falling water into mechanical energy, which then spins a generator to produce electricity,” said Gammer. “Weighing 165,000 kg, the turbine runner is the heaviest unassembled single component of the Site C project.”

The first turbine runners arrived in Canada in December 2020 and were shipped to the dam site in early 2021. Each weighs about 170 tonnes and measure 17 feet tall by 26 feet wide.

Voith Hydro was awarded a $470-million contract in April 2017 to design, supply, and install six turbines, six generators, and associated equipment for the Site C powerhouse. The company, headquartered in Montreal, previously completed upgrades to the G.M. Shrum Generating station at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam.

The turbines and generators were custom built to "the site specific conditions" of the $16-billion dam at Voith’s facility in Brazil, which BC Hydro says will generate 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year.

Construction of the earthfill dam at Site C is now around 90% complete, and the overall project more than 70% built.

Earlier this month, BC Hydro president Chris O’Riley told the BC Natural Resource Forum that the official target for commissioning is still nearly two years away, though he suggested the company could potentially finish the project by the end of this year.

“Our official schedule has two years, or 20 months, till we get first power on the project,” O’Riley said. “We do have a shot at getting first power the coming December – so this year. Lots of things have to go right for that to occur.”

— with files from Nelson Bennett/Business in Vancouver