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Look deep into the bowels of a new hydro station

Lower Mattagami River project in Northern Ontario refurbishes and adds on to existing dams. It's more power without more flooding – clean power on First Nation lands

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Head north from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., and this is the first indication of the Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric Complex: the headpond for Little Long station, the furthest upstream of four hydroelectric stations. When this infrastructure project is complete in 2015, three existing generating stations along the Lower Mattagami River will be refurbished, and a fourth will be replaced.

Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail

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Water spills from Little Long’s headpond into Adam Creek, which diverts water from the Lower Mattagami River around the four generating stations in the hydro complex at Smoky Falls. This $2.6-billion project will add 438 megawatts of capacity to the Northern Ontario grid – enough peak power for at least 400,000 homes, according to Ontario Power Generation.

Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail

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An aerial view of the new Smoky Falls Generating Station.

Ontario Power Generation

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A closer shot of Smoky Falls Generating Station shows the massive construction process. At right is the original Smoky Falls station, built in the 1920s, while the brand-new station, left, is under construction.

Ontario Power Generation

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Deep inside Smoky Falls generating station, the pieces of hydroelectric generation are coming together. This is the runner, the spinning blades of the turbine, nearly six metres wide. It will be lowered into the generating unit’s scrollcase. When commissioned, it will spin the rotor with the water’s flow to generate electricity through the unit.

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The runner will be lowered down this pit, some 15 metres below the generator floor, when completed.

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When the generating unit is active, water will rush through the gate – covered here by a blue tarp – to reach the turbine.

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The water chamber, called the scrollcase, is where the water will go once it passes the intake gate. Like a seashell, the conical chamber narrows the further it goes around; this helps to push water into the runner’s blades at a consistent and efficient rate, keeping the turbine turning.

Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail

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Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. of the Moose Cree First Nation, left, and Ontario Power Generation’s Mike Martelli chat near the Smoky Falls Generating Station in late October. Read the full story about this northern infrastructure project at the link below: Massive project gives new life to old hydro dams

Josh O’Kane/The Globe and Mail

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