"BC Hydro is making investments to secure our province's future electricity needs. An important part of this is looking at existing facilities to see if they can be upgraded to add even more power to the system," said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines. "The two new units give us access to more clean power for decades. BC Hydro has also recently added one more unit at Revelstoke dam and will add another one at Revelstoke in the coming years."
Mica produces power for more than 650,000 homes each year.
The two new generating units increase Mica's capacity by about 1,000 megawatts, bringing its total capacity to more than 2,805 megawatts. When Mica was built in the 1970s, it was built with four units and space for two more to be added in the future.
"Our Mica facility will continue to play an important role in meeting increased winter demand," said Jessica McDonald, President and CEO, BC Hydro. "Our new high voltage Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line is bringing the power generated at Mica to our high load centres on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island."
The addition of the turbines is one part of an eight-year upgrade and expansion of Mica. Unit five went into service last winter and unit six went into service this winter. BC Hydro also recently upgraded the facility's aging switchgear equipment and constructed a new series capacitor station on the transmission line from Mica near Seymour Arm.
To date, construction activities for the Mica expansion and upgrade projects have created about 1,000 full time jobs for tradespeople in the region.
BC Hydro is in the midst of a major capital plan to upgrade its generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in B.C. BC Hydro completed construction of the new, high-voltage, Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line in November. The line is the first 500-kilovolt transmission line added to the system in 30 years. It will bring power from facilities like Mica and Revelstoke to B.C.'s largest population centres to meet growing demand.
Mica Generating Station, located 145 kilometres north of Revelstoke, was originally designed to house six generating units though only four were installed when the facility was completed in 1977. Mica is the cornerstone of BC Hydro's Columbia River generation system and now accounts for about 22 per cent of BC Hydro's generation capacity.
BC Hydro's upgrade and expansion of Mica began in 2009 with a project to replace aging gas-insulated switchgear equipment in the underground powerhouse and install additional equipment needed to support the new generating units. High voltage gas-insulated switchgear equipment helps with the delivery of high voltage electricity from the underground generating units to the above-ground transmission lines. This project was completed on budget in August 2014.
In 2011, BC Hydro started construction of a new series capacitor station near Seymour Arm. This station was needed to prepare for the new Mica generating units and allow more electricity to be moved along the 500 kilovolt transmission lines from Mica to BC Hydro's electricity grid at the Nicola substation. The new station was completed on schedule and under budget in 2013. The Nicola substation is the start point for the new, high voltage, Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line.
In 2011, BC Hydro started the Mica 5 and 6 Project to install the two new 500 megawatt generating units into the remaining two empty bays in the powerhouse.
BC Hydro expanded the Mica Creek Camp in 2011 to house temporary project workers, adding 418 more beds. The contract to install and operate the expanded camp facilities is held by Horizon North Camps and Catering Partnership, a joint venture with the Neskonlith, Splatsin, and Adams Lake bands. This contract is one of the largest tendered contracts ever awarded by BC Hydro to a First Nations joint venture. The Mica projects have also helped create trades training capacity in nearby communities by providing a total of $120,000 towards local hands-on trades training programs.