Lower Churchill Project

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The Lower Churchill Project is a planned hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada, to develop the remaining 35 per cent of the Churchill River that has not already been developed by the Churchill Falls Generating Station. The Lower Churchill's two installations at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls will have a combined capacity of over 3,074 MW and have the ability to provide 16.7 TWh of electricity per year.[1]


Further development of the Churchill River in central Labrador was planned for after the Churchill Falls Generating Station opened in 1972. However, the government of Québec refused to allow exports of electricity through its territory. The Lower Churchill Project passed an environmental assessment in 1980, but the project was postponed indefinitely due to concerns over market access to Hydro-Québec's electricity transmission system and financing.

According to former Premier Brian Tobin, as Labrador borders Québec, when an agreement was being negotiated to sell the power generated at Churchill Falls, the power had to be sold to an entity within Québec or pass through Québec. The government of Québec refused to allow power to be transferred through Québec and would accept a contract only if the power was sold to Québec.[2]

Because of this monopsony situation, Hydro-Québec received very favourable terms on the power sale contract. The contract was negotiated to run for a 40-year timespan, running until the year 2016,and then automatically renewing for 25 more years at a discounted rate.[3] According to former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, Hydro-Québec reaps profits from the Upper Churchill contract of approximately $1.7 billion per year, while Newfoundland and Labrador receives $63 million a year.[4]

According to long-time Hydro-Québec critic Claude Garcia, the former president of Standard Life (Canada) and author of a recent assessment of the utility commissioned by the Montreal Economic Institute, if Hydro-Québec had to pay market prices for the low-cost power it received from the Churchill Falls project in Labrador, the 2007 profit would be an estimated 75% lower.[5]

According to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Hydro-Québec has reaped more than $19 billion in profits while Newfoundland has received only $1 billion in revenues from the Churchill Falls project. Québec refused to renegotiate the project, which expire only in 2041.[6] Due to the coercion involved in that deal, Newfoundland and Labrador has sought an alternate route for the Lower Churchill Project that bypasses Québec.[7]

A $6.2 billion deal between Newfoundland and Labrador's Nalcor Energy and Halifax-based Emera was announced on November 18, 2010.[8] Nalcor Energy will spend $2.9 billion to build a power generating facility at Muskrat Falls, while Emera will invest $1.2-billion in the Maritime Transmission Link underwater power connection and $600 million in the Muskrat Falls facility in exchange for 20% of the 800-megawatts of capacity.

Construction of the first phase (Muskrat Falls Generating Facility, Labrador-Island Transmission Link and Maritime Transmission Link) is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, the second phase (Gull Island Generating Facility) not proceeding until electricity demand strengthens enough.

Phase 1[edit]

Muskrat Falls Generating Facility[edit]

Muskrat Falls
Location Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Coordinates 53°14′44.3″N 60°46′22″W / 53.245639°N 60.77278°W / 53.245639; -60.77278Coordinates: 53°14′44.3″N 60°46′22″W / 53.245639°N 60.77278°W / 53.245639; -60.77278
Construction began 2012
Construction cost C$7.7 billion[citation needed]
Owner(s) Nalcor Energy
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Roller compacted concrete
Impounds Churchill River
Spillway capacity 5930 m
Surface area 41 km2
Power station
Turbines 4 x Kaplan turbines
Installed capacity 824 MW

The Muskrat Falls Generating Facility 53°14′44″N 60°46′17″W / 53.24556°N 60.77139°W / 53.24556; -60.77139 (Muskrat Falls Generating Facility) will consist of a generation station with a capacity of 824 MW and a powerhouse which will contain four Kaplan turbines. The concrete dam will be built in two sections (on the north and south abutments of the river): the north dam will be 32 m high and 432 m long, the south dam 29 m high and 325 m long. The reservoir will be 59 km long with an area of 101 km2. The area of inundated land will be 41 km2 at full supply level. Four 345 kV AC transmission lines will connect the powerhouse to the Muskrat Falls switchyard.[9]

Phase 1 of the Lower Churchill Project is expected to take approximately six years.[10][broken citation]

Labrador-Island Transmission Link[edit]

Emera and Nalcor will form a joint venture to construct transmission facilities from Labrador to Newfoundland at a cost of $2.1 billion.

The Labrador-Island Transmission Link will be a 900MW 1,100 km High-voltage direct current (HVDC) bipole from the Muskrat Falls switchyard in central Labrador to an area near Soldiers Pond on the Avalon Peninsula.[9] This work will result in at least one million person hours of engineering and project management employment and 2.5 million person hours of construction employment in the province.

Key components include the following:

Construction of the Labrador-Island Transmission Link would take four years, followed by a year long commissioning project.

Maritime Transmission Link[edit]

Emera will construct and own a $1.2-billion underwater power connection from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, to be known as the Maritime Transmission Link. This will enable future electricity exports to the Maritime provinces and the United States.[11]

Major components include the following:[12]

  • Overhead high-voltage AC transmission lines connecting the Newfoundland Island transmission grid to Bottom Brook Converter Station
  • Bottom Brook Converter Station (500 MW) AC to HVDC
  • Overhead HVDC transmission lines from Bottom Brook to Cape Ray
  • Submarine cables across the Cabot Strait from Cape Ray, Newfoundland to Lingan, Nova Scotia (180 km)
  • Cape Breton Converter Station (500 MW) HVDC to AC, tying into the existing Nova Scotia transmission grid

AC Transmission Lines[edit]

Two 263 km, 345 kV transmission lines will connect the Muskrat Falls switchyard to the existing Churchill Falls switchyard, passing near the future site of the Gull Island Generating Station.[9]

Both transmission lines will be supported by lattice-type steel structures and located north of the Churchill River, requiring a cleared right of way approximately 80 m wide in addition to the existing right of way.

The existing 138 kV transmission line from Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay will be terminated at a new 345 kV to 138 kV transformer on the new transmission line north of the Churchill River.

Phase 2[edit]

Gull Island[edit]

The Gull Island facility will consist of a generation station with a capacity of 2,250 MW, and the powerhouse will contain five Francis turbines. The dam will be a concrete-faced, rock-fill construction 99 m high and 1,315 m long establishing a 213 km2 reservoir with a full supply level of 125 m above sea level. The reservoir will be 232 km long and the incremental area of inundated land will be 85 km2 at full supply level. The proposed development of Gull Island would follow no earlier than three years after the sanction of Muskrat Falls.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lower Churchill Project". Nalcor Energy. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Speaking notes from an address by Brian Tobin". Premier's Address on Churchill Falls to the Empire Club, Toronto (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador). November 19, 1996. Retrieved June 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Power Contract Between Quebec Hydro-Electric Commission and Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited May 12, 1969". 
  4. ^ Moore, Lynn (November 30, 2009). "Newfoundland challenges Churchill Falls hydro deal with Quebec". Canwest News Service (Montreal Gazette). Retrieved 2009-12-01. [dead link]
  5. ^ Baril, Hélène (4 February 2009). "Privatisation d'Hydro-Québec: Claude Garcia s'explique". La Presse (in French) (Montreal). Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  6. ^ Bailey, Sue (18 November 2010). "$6.2B deal reached for Lower Churchill power project". The Star (Toronto). 
  7. ^ Gazette, The (2005-12-20). "Churchill Falls deal probed". Canada.com. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  8. ^ McCarthy, Shawn (18 November 2010). "Churchill hydro deal signals era of Atlantic co-operation – The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nalcor's submission to the Board of Commissioners" (PDF). Nalcor Energy. November 10, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Lower Churchill Project". Government of Newfoundland & Labrador. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  12. ^ "Hydro". The Maritimes Energy Association. Retrieved August 20, 2013.