Wreck Cove marks 40 years of renewable energy

WRECK COVE – Carved into a granite mountain in Victoria County, south of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, lies Nova Scotia’s largest hydroelectric plant - Wreck Cove.

The Wreck Cove Hydro Station produced its first energy on March 27, 1978. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the generating station.

“There are 33 hydro stations across Nova Scotia, with a total capacity of 400 MW,” said Mark Sidebottom, Chief Operating Officer at Nova Scotia Power. “Wreck Cove makes up half of that. It’s a very important player on our electrical grid that provides reliable, renewable energy needed to complement and back up the 600 MW of clean – but unpredictable – wind power on our system.”

The Wreck Cove facility has a total generating capacity of 212 MW, producing on average 318 million kWh annually - enough energy to power about 30,000 homes.

Sidebottom acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the employees who work at Wreck Cove. “I’m continually impressed by the team’s talent and skill as they safely work to keep this 40-year old generating station functioning properly so that it’s available for electricity generation when our customers need it most.”

The plant is an impressive feat of engineering. The powerhouse is located 275 feet underground via a 620 metre tunnel. It collects drainage water from 216 square kilometres of the Cape Breton Highlands plateau to generate renewable electricity.

Between 1975 and 1978, more than 2.5 million cubic metres of rock were blasted and removed to construct the facility’s 11 major dams. It required one of the largest fleets of earth-moving equipment in Nova Scotia’s history and employed approximately 900 people.

“The plant design is very creative; hydro turbines frequently rely on significant water volume and flow rates to operate. In this case, a series of dams were developed on the plateau almost 365 metres above the powerhouse proving a supply of very high pressure water to the hydro turbines for electricity generation,” said Sidebottom. “Wreck Cove is truly an innovative engineering solution that takes advantage of our province’s natural topography to provide cost-effective, clean electricity for Nova Scotians.”  

Nova Scotia Power continues to produce real results on the road to a low-carbon, clean energy future, with 29 per cent of electricity in Nova Scotia last year coming from renewable energy resources. Wreck Cove is an important part of Nova Scotia Power’s renewable generation fleet and will be a key contributor towards the requirement for 40 per cent of electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources in 2020.