Hydro Canal

Hydro Canal
Address:  various places as it crosses Niagara Falls

It is hard to imagine that I could be possible to visit Niagara Falls without encountering some of the hydro-electricity generating infrastructure.  Using Niagara Falls as a source of power goes back to the first days of commercial electricity, and many famous names are invoked:  Lord Kelvin, George Westinghouse, Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edision...

Crossing Niagara Falls is the 13.6 kilometre hydro canal, which feeds the Sir Adam Beck power stations at Queenston.  The first Sir Adam Beck power station was developed from 1917 to 1921.  Previous power stations had been located near the Falls itself, however much of the difference in elevation of the river occurs below the Falls itself, so more of the energy of the river can be utilised.  

The water comes in at Chippawa, through the Welland River, which originally flowed into the Niagara River.  To supply the hydro canal, the flow in part of the Welland River was reversed, and the river course enlarged.  

To carry road and rail traffic, ten bridges were built across the canal.  

More recently, expansion of generating capacity at Queenston, has resulted in the construction of three large tunnels between Chippawa and Queenston - they go under the city.  

There is much to find out about electrical generation in Niagara.  A trip up the river from Niagara-on-the-Lake on a jet boat will reveal the enormous size of the Sir Adam Beck generating stations and the Robert Moses generating station (on the opposite, American, side of the river).

A note for curious visitors from outside of Ontario:  Strangely, in Ontario, electricity is often referred to as 'Hydro' (usually referring to water).  This reflects a time when most of Ontario's electricity was hydro-generated, and was supplied by the the 'Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario', formed in 1906 (name changed to 'Ontario Hydro' in 1974), and quickly grew to dominate the electricity system in the province.  

Something to think about:
- How should a massive industrial use relate to an urban environment?
- It is interesting how the electrical generation and transmission systems have just become a part of the urban areas
- Lord Kelvin thought that Niagara Falls should be just 'turned off' and all the water used to generate electricity.  (The Falls have indeed been turned off for maintenance.) How should the various economic pressures be traded off in the 21st century - zero/low carbon electrical generation balanced against the value of the Falls as a tourist destination?