Plans for the refurbishment of the 302MW Trenche hydroelectric facility on the Rivière Saint-Maurice in Haute-Mauricie, Quebec, have taken a step forward as Hydro-Québec confirms it is undertaking the studies associated with the draft-design phase of the project, which will continue until 2024. 

The project’s main goal is to increase the Trenche facility’s service life while ensuring electricity generation, public safety and regulation of the flow of the Rivière Saint-Maurice.

“This generating station is the largest generation facility in the Mauricie region,” noted Jean Matte, Acting Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President – Generation, Health, Safety and Environment. “The refurbishment of the six generating units will increase the installed capacity by 48MW, without changing how the Rivière Saint-Maurice is managed.”

“The draft-design phase will ensure that all the conditions to guarantee the success of the refurbishment—planned for 2026—will be met, following approval by Hydro-Québec management. The teams currently deployed at Rapide-Blanc will contribute to these key steps to ensure the work proceeds smoothly,” added Carl Morin, Manager – Generation Facility Projects in the Mauricie region.

The draft-design phase aims mainly to:

  • Coordinate all resources and studies required to define the technical content, constraints, permitting requirements and impacts on the biophysical and host environment
  • Conduct field tests
  • Develop project execution strategies
  • Identify and manage risks
  • Plan and develop project estimates
  • Consult local and Indigenous communities so that the best and most socially acceptable decisions are made
  • The top priority will be to carry out the work in compliance with health and safety standards while minimizing the impact on the facility’s operation.

In addition to Hydro-Québec’s teams, an engineering firm, laboratories and specialized contractors will also be called upon to carry out these activities. Structural, mechanical, control, electrical equipment, hydraulic, hydrological, geological, geotechnical, construction method, materials, environmental and health and safety engineers, technicians and specialists will supervise the work.

As part of its projects, Hydro-Québec implements public participation programs to maintain an ongoing dialogue with host communities, various community groups and users of the territory. Meetings will take place with representatives from La Tuque and Wemotaci, or with people who could be directly affected by the work, to ensure that the best and most socially acceptable decisions are made.

“With the information gathered from studies and tests, we will consult those directly affected in various ways in order to establish the best strategies to complete the project and which mitigation measures should be implemented. The input received will allow us to propose various initiatives relative to identified concerns and issues and adjust the project from a technical, environmental and social perspective,” added Caroline Belley, Manager – Projects.

“I applaud Hydro-Québec’s respectful approach to working with communities during this phase of preliminary project studies. The refurbishment of the Trenche facility is part of the Government of Quebec’s green energy development strategy. Let us recall here the importance of developing renewable energy sources as we move towards the electrification of our economy,” said Marie-Louise Tardif, Member of Parliament for Laviolette–Saint-Maurice.

“The refurbishment of the facility will help us meet the needs of future generations with clean, renewable and reliable energy. In the scenarios being studied, we also want to increase the evacuation capacity for the passage of a probable maximum flood in the spring to take climate change into account,” concluded Jean Matte.

Trenche generating station, located in La Tuque on the Rivière Saint-Maurice between Rapide-Blanc and Beaumont generating stations, was commissioned in the 1950s. It is made up of six generating units and the drop in water levels is 48.7m. With its installed capacity of 302MW, the generating station supplies about 109,000 homes. Once refurbished, the installed capacity will be 350MW.

Hydro purchase

In other news from Hydro-Québec, the utility has announced it has entered into a 40-year escalating electricity purchase agreement with Evolugen, the Canadian operating business of Brookfield Renewable, under which Hydro-Québec will purchase the output of the Lièvre hydro-electric portfolio in Québec with 263MW of capacity. The assets will continue to be operated by Evolugen.

Given the ongoing energy transition, it is expected that demand for clean, renewable base load electricity generation will increase sharply in the coming years. Hydro-Québec is implementing several strategies to address this demand, in particular by contracting the capacity comprised of four generating stations located along Rivière du Lièvre in Outaouais. The facilities will contribute approximately 1.5 TWh annually, which is equivalent to the energy used by close to 90,000 homes.

The agreement involves integrating Evolugen’s Lièvre generating fleet, into Hydro-Québec’s generation planning. It also includes priority access rights associated with the US market.

“With this strategic agreement, we are adding capacity and renewable energy to our supply in a context of increasing demand in both Québec and neighboring markets. The opportunity to purchase output from reliable hydroelectric generating stations that are currently in operation and already connected was appealing for many reasons. This agreement is particularly useful for us during winter peaks,” noted Pierre Despars, Vice President – Corporate Strategy and Business Development at Hydro-Québec.

“We are pleased to sign a strategic agreement with our long-standing partner, Hydro Québec, to contract our Lièvre assets for the next 40 years. This agreement offers a sustainable and Québec-based solution to meet Hydro-Québec’s growing renewable energy demand” said Josée Guibord, CEO of Evolugen, the Canadian operating business of Brookfield Renewable. “Our team works hand-in-hand with customers to provide tailored clean energy solutions, like this one, that fit our customers’ objectives and reduce their exposure risk.”

Deliveries of output from the facilities began on December 31, 2021.