Work is progressing on-schedule at the run-of-the river project 46 kilometres north of Harrison Hot Springs off the Harrison East forest service road.
The Big Silver Creek hydro project, expected to generate energy to power approximately 20,000 homes, is one year into construction and everything is going as planned, according to Innergex public affairs advisor Amrit Dhatt.
“It’s coming along nicely. We’ve been really happy with the progress,” says Dhatt.
Innergex started working on the initial stages of construction in April, 2014. They anticipate the project to be up and running by the end of 2016.
Innergex Renewable Energy is an independent power producer that builds, owns and operates run-of-the river facilities in B.C. and elsewhere. The company is also building a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project at Tretheway Creek and Shovel Creek, both near Harrison Lake.
Run-of-the-river projects are designed to use natural elevation to send water through a screen and down a ‘penstock’, essentially long, large pipes, buried underground or above ground depending on topography. The penstock carries the water to a powerhouse, where it flows through turbines, which capture energy. The energy is sent to a switchyard and the water flows into the tailrace – a new waterway that reconnects the diverted water to the natural course of the river.
“Once the water goes through the powerhouse, it goes back into the creek clean and unchanged,” says Dhatt. She says run-of-the-river projects have a “very low environmental footprint,” and a “minimal impact” on fish.
As far as recreational users of the creek, Dhatt says the company’s environmental team has not heard of any issues with kayakers and none have been seen at the site or in Big Silver Creek since construction started.
“We have experience building positive and co-operative relationships with recreational users at our other project sites so we would be glad to hear from recreational users in the community who might have concerns.”
She says that, generally speaking, Innergex tries to not build projects in areas “heavily used” by recreational groups such as kayakers.
Dhatt says the large pipes residents noticed passing through town were were the penstock pieces. At 3.6 metres diameter and up to 18 metres long, they were quite the site trucking through town on roughly 80 delivery dates. Those pipes are now on-site at Big Silver Creek.
According to an Innergex investor presentation in October, 2014, the estimated construction cost for Big Silver Creek is $216 million.
A new suspension bridge opening up in Cascade Falls Regional Park received funding from Innergex. They contributed $225,000 towards the bridge, which is scheduled for a grand opening April 18. According to the FVRD website, Innergex was one of three partners, including the FVRD which contributed $57,500 to reconstruct stairs and bridges that lead to the bridge and BC Hydro, which contributed $5,000 to be used for education purposes related to the use of hydro power. Innergex’s funding includes the cost of educational signage on how falling water generates electricity.
“By providing educational signage, Innergex also hopes to educate and inspire young minds to think about the role renewable energy can play in their future,” according to the FVRD website.