Celebrating 50 years since the first delivery of power at the Churchill Falls Generating Station

Churchill Falls, NL

Yesterday, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro marked the 50th anniversary of the Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station. On December 6th, 1971, the Station successfully delivered power across its 735kV transmission lines, more than 1,200 km to Montreal.

With a generating capacity of 5,428 megawatts, the Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station has been producing and delivering safe, reliable energy to millions of North American homes for half a century and is one of the largest underground hydroelectric facilities in the world.

“It takes a dedicated and skilled workforce to safely and successfully maintain this world-class operation,” said Jennifer Williams, President and CEO, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. “From the maintenance teams to the staff who support them—everyone contributes to maximizing the life of the facility as we continue producing safe, reliable power”.

At the time construction began in 1967, it was the largest civil engineering project in North America requiring approximately 6,300 workers to complete this mega project. The massive operation sits more than 300 m under the ground, taking a nearly two minute elevator ride from the ground level Control & Administration Building to arrive at the Powerhouse underground.

To ensure its assets remain strong, reliable, and continue to safely operate year after year, this massive operation has successfully undergone various refurbishments, replacements, and upgrades to infrastructure and technology. Such highlights include transformer replacements, 735kV and 66kV transmission line rehabilitations, generating unit modernization, and switchyard renewal.

“Churchill Falls remains a critical part of our provincial electricity system even today—50 years on—it continues to be a source of power that people can count on,” said Williams. “That is so important, today more than ever.”

In addition to providing safe and reliable electricity to millions of homes across North America, the company also owns and operates the town of Churchill Falls; which is home to the proud and dedicated skilled workforce who operates and supports the generating station. On average, the plant generates approximately 34 terawatt hours of safe, reliable energy that is delivered to millions of North American consumers each year.

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Quick Facts:

  • The Honourable, Joseph R. Smallwood PCC CC, the province’s Premier at the time, inaugurated the project’s construction in 1967, and, in 1971, officially closed the Lobstick Control Structure to begin filling the reservoir that held his name—The Smallwood Reservoir.
  • The Right Honourable Pierre E. Trudeau PCC CC CH QC FRSC, Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, along with The Honourable Frank D. Moores, Newfoundland and Labrador’s then Premier, inaugurated the Churchill Falls Generating Station in 1972.
  • In 1998, the Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation (CF(L)Co) entered into a Guaranteed Winter Availability Contract (GWAC) with Hydro-Quebec which provides additional revenue for the sale of up to 682 megawatts of further capacity to Hydro-Quebec during the months of November through March.
  • The 735 kV transmission power lines span 1,829 m over the Churchill River.
  • During construction, there was a total of 663,000 tonnes of material, equipment and fuel transported to the construction site from as far away as Florida and Alaska.
  • To feed the workforce daily at its peak population, it took 9000 pounds of meat, 2,600 dozen eggs, 3,100 loaves of bread, 13 tonnes of vegetables, and 2,300 gallons of milk.

View some historical photos here.