The Burritts Rapids Community Small Hydro Project

The village of Burritts Rapids straddles the Rideau River and Rideau Canal, with much of the village located on an island. The Rideau River passes north of the island and the Rideau Canal passes south of the island. The part of the village on the island and on the south side of the canal is in North Grenville Township, and the part of the village on the north side of the river is located in the rural part of the City of Ottawa. The entire village is part of the Rideau Canal UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tip to tip trail map

Near the west end of the island there is a dam across the Rideau River that controls the water level for the Rideau Canal. An average of 35m3/second of water flows through the sluices on this dam. Currently this water flow is essentially wasted because no effort is made to generate any power with it.

The dam, like most of the infrastructure for the Rideau Canal, belongs to Parks Canada. They will allow us to install and operate power generation equipment in the dam through a formal approval process. In return, they will get a percentage of the gross revenue from the sale of power.

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) [1] purchases power through a Feed-In Tariff (FIT) process. The power lines between the Merrickville hydro sub-station and the nearby Burritts Rapids Solar Energy Project were recently upgraded and have plenty of excess capacity to accommodate the amount of electricity the Burritts Rapids Community Hydro Power Project will generate. There is less than a kilometer of line that we will need to install to connect to it.

Due to the relatively small difference in the water level between the upstream and downstream sides of the dam, this site is classified as a 'low head' site. Typically in Canada and the United States most hydro power has historically been generated in very large, high head projects, but as demand for electricity continues to expand the sites suitable for these large projects have all been used up. Low head hydro generation is very well established in Europe and elsewhere in the world, and a major study done by Natural Resources Canada [2] shows there is enough low head capacity available in Canada to double the electricity supply, and much of this low head capacity already has existing dams, weirs and other water management infrastructure in place. The Burritts Rapids Community Hydro Power Project will be one of the first low head power sites in Canada.

Project History to Date

Using a grant from the Grenville Community Futures Development Corporation (supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), a very comprehensive Initial Feasibility Study of the project was done by Genivar Inc. (now part of WSP Global).

The Initial Feasibility Study looked at many factors, including historic water flow data, environmental issues, technology alternatives and financial factors. The study was completed and released in March 2013. The study concluded the project was feasible from an engineering standpoint. However, based on the rates paid at the time by the Ontario Power Authority (now part of IESO), the study concluded that the project was not economically feasible. Then in September 2014 the rates paid for small hydro were raised by approximately 70%. This takes the Burritts Rapids Community Small Hydro Project from being only marginally financially feasible to being profitable.

Since then BRREA has partnered with the Municipality of North Grenville and Equinox Hydro Inc. to form Burritts Rapids Hydro Inc. (BRHI).

In autumn 2015 Parks Canada issued BRHI a Survey Permit for the site. The Survey Permit gives Parks Canada's permission for BRHI to apply to IESO for a FIT contract.

IESO requires a Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) contract before they will purchase electricity from an independent producer. They only accept applications for FIT contracts occasionally. The latest window for accepting applications was in the fall of 2015. BRHI submitted their application and we expect to hear from IESO by late spring or early summer 2016 whether or not we have a contract. The FIT contract is IESO's agreement that they will buy electricity generated at the site up to the amount specified in the contract.

Upcoming Project Activity

Over the next twelve to eighteen months our focus will be on the following main activities:

Parks Canada Priority Permit

The Parks Canada Survey Permit gave us their permission to apply to IESO for a FIT contract for the site. Once the FIT contract has been issued we will need to get a Parks Canada Priority Permit to proceed further with the project.

Environmental Assessment

As a condition for getting final approval to proceed, Parks Canada requires an Environmental Assessment (EA) be completed with results acceptable to Parks Canada. This includes the effects of the project on the:

Parks Canada will set the specific requirements for the EA based on the particular nature of the project. Parks Canada is doing an extensive Environmental Assessment of the area for their Earth Dam project, and we hope to use some of the information in our EA.

Community Consultations

Some level of community consultations and approvals may be included in the requirements for the Environmental Assessment. However, even if this is not the case, the BRREA Board and BRHI are committed to ensuring that the Burritts Rapids community is consulted and is substantially in agreement with the project as the details become clearer, and in ensuring that community concerns are addressed.

Long Term Project Activity

The Project steps and activities over the longer term will become clearer as the project proceeds. They will include:

[1] - The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is an independent, non-profit corporation established through the Electricity Restructuring Act, 2004 (Bill 100). It reports to the Ontario legislature through Ontario's Ministry of Energy. It was created in 1998 when the former Ontario Hydro was reorganized into several companies: Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the Ontario Hydro Services Company (later renamed Hydro One), the Independent Electricity Market Operator (later renamed the Independent Electricity System Operator), the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the Electrical Safety Authority, and Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation. As of January 1, 2015 the Ontario Power Authority was merged into the IESO.

[2] - Low Head Hydro Market Assessment, Document H-327842.201.01, Natural Resources Canada.

Google Earth view of dam site

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