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Ontario Power Generation Celebrates 60 years of Operations


A view of OPG from five floors above the St. Lawrence river.

Cornwall. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) formerly R. H. SAUNDERS, celebrated 60 years of operations on Saturday, June 23. OPG was host to over 750 visitors in a pre-registered guided tour.

Visitors got a up-close look at the process of converting falling water into energy from the penstock to the turbine, through the generator and stader and finally the tailrace; sending water back into the river. Guest also enjoyed the spectacular view from the sixth floor observation deck.

According to the OPG tour guide; OPG generates reliable and low cost clean, renewable hydro-electricity along the St. Lawrence River at the R.H. Saunders Generating Station and 66 other hydroelectric stations, including a green power portfolio of 29 small hydroelectric plants and 241 dams on 24 river systems. The smallest station has a generating capacity of just 800 kilowatts; the largest more than 1,400 megawatts. OPG also owns five thermal electricity-generating stations: two of the stations were converted to use biomass. Biomass is a sustainable fuel recognized across the world as beneficial to climate change mitigation and a third plant was converted to use oil and natural gas.

As well, more than 99 per cent of this power is free of smog and greenhouse gas emissions. OPG's power is priced 40 per cent lower than other generators, which helps moderate customer bills. OPG also operates thermal, nuclear power plants and provides 50% of the power of the province. Interestingly enough, Cornwall's electricity is supplied by Hydro Quebec.

In April of 2014, OPG burned its last piece of coal to generate electricity in Ontario. This move off coal was North America's single largest climate change initiative and the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road. This made Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation.

"We're proud to be stewards of a number of water powered stations with rich and long histories, like the R.H. Saunders Generating Station," said Mike Martelli, President, Renewable Generation and Power Marketing. "On July 1, 1958, the station opened for business with the push of a button and the explosion of a cofferdam four kilometres upstream of the powerhouse. Sixty years later, the R.H. Saunders Generating Station continues to be a vital source of clean renewable electricity and a symbol of international cooperation."

OPG states they are committed to building and growing long-term, mutually beneficial working relationships with Indigenous communities near their current and future operations in Ontario. OPG currently list five Indigenous First Nations as partner communities on their website: Lac Seul First Nation, Métis Nation of Ontario, Moose Cree First Nation, Six Nations, and the Taykwa Tagamou Nation. Mohawks of Akwesasne are listed as a 'Past Grievance Settled".

In the spring of 2016, OPG announced a partnership with the Six Nations Development Corporation, a community owned corporation of the Six Nations of the Grand River, to build a 44 megawatt solar generation development at the site of the former Nanticoke Thermal Generating Station on Lake Erie.

In 2007, OPG developed an 'Indigenous Relations Policy' which includes operational business plans that will include the following areas specific to the implementation of this policy: it sets out their objectives for respecting rights and interests and developing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships with Indigenous communities. The policy also requires engaging in community relations and outreach, providing capacity-building support, including employment and business contracting opportunities. OPG states they are proud of the progress it has achieved in working with Indigenous communities to resolve grievances related to past hydroelectric development.

Brent Stajkowski, Production Manager at OPG's R.H. Saunders stated, "We wanted our visitors to celebrate, educate and observe to see what is inside this facility. What we do here is technical wizardry and to see its importance to Cornwall and to the area and to Ontario. We (OPG) generate about 5 percent energy of Ontario. From our social license perspective we are very aware of our impact to the community and on the river.'

OPG also works with the Akwesasne Mohawk Board of Education to promote 'Girls and Technology".

He added, "We have a great relationship with Akwesasne. We are working with them on a number of different avenues. Even from the employment side we just hired four Akwesasne members as permanent staff. We are very excited to have them."

"We are going through quite a renewal here. This is 60 years of this generating plant operating. There are a number of changes and one is obviously changing the equipment and the people – we have a lot of new faces here, a lot of new people. It an opportunity of change for this station and we are happy to share this with the public."

When asked about long-range plans, Stajkowski stated, "On average we spend about 15 million dollars a year on projects here. One major renewal is overhauling all our generators. It will be a 14-year program and we will probably spend over 300 million dollars. It's a pretty intensive project and that will set us up for another 50 years. Starting in 2020, there will be lots of activity here."

He added, "NYS Power Authority also celebrates their 60th year as we share facilities, knowledge, and sometimes equipment. Earlier in the year, NYSPA's older crane broke down and we shared ours, it was moved over to finish their work. This entire station is designed with the idea to share."

Almost everything is operated by a computer, from the monitoring to the regulation of the water flow through the turbines to the generators.

When asked about their relationship with Akwesasne, Stajkowski stated, "It takes a while to develop trust and takes a while to align together where we want to move forward together. We are also celebrating our 10th anniversary later this year of the signing of past grievance with Akwesasne. We are excited about that, they are excited about it; we will do a special event for this: to recognize where we were and where we are."

To this, Grand Chief Abram Benedict added, "We are incredibly proud of the relationship we have with Ontario Power Generation; we are always examining ways we work with our partners to advance community priorities. OPG is a partner who is always willing to work with Akwesasne. 60 years ago we didn't have a relationship, but today we are happy to be a neighbor and partner with OPG. Congratulation to OPG."


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