Milestones:Pinawa Hydroelectric Power Project, 1906

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Nelson River, Canada
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Pinawa Hydroelectric Power Project, 1906

On 9 June 1906 the Winnipeg Electric Railway Co. transmitted electric power from the Pinawa generating station on the Winnipeg River to the city of Winnipeg at 60,000 volts. It was the first year-round hydroelectric plant in Manitoba and one of the first to be developed in such a cold climate anywhere in the world.

The legacy of Manitoba Hydro's predecessor company, Winnipeg Electric Railway Co., was the ability to prove that rivers in Manitoba, Canada could be developed to supply low cost electricity for streetcars and emerging domestic and commercial markets. The proof was in the successful development of Pinawa in 1906. This brought about competition from the emerging municipal utility, City of Winnipeg Hydro, which later developed the second hydroelectric plant on the Winnipeg River, Pointe du Bois in 1911. The two utilities battled to keep rates lower than anywhere else in North America. In 2002, Manitoba Hydro purchased the smaller Winnipeg Hydro and electricity rates are still the lowest in North America.

Although the plant itself is conventional by the standards of the 1900s, the ability to provide solutions to construction problems in the primitive wilderness surrounding the Winnipeg River were unique at that time. In addition, the operational problems of a plant faced with frazil ice formation at the onset of each winter had to be considered and dealt with. These were met with success.

The Pinawa plant with an ultimate rating of 22 MW was the first in a series of 13 plants on the Winnipeg, Nelson, and Saskatchewan Rivers in Manitoba for a total capacity of 5000 MW. The most recent plant, Limestone with a rating of 1340 MW, was completed in 1992. There is also an undeveloped hydro potential of some 5000 MW for the future.

The Milestone plaque may be viewed at the Manitoba Electrical Museum and Education Centre, 680 Harrow St, Winnipeg, MB R3M, Canada

The following articles may be of interest:

  • “The Pinawa Story”, Lindsay Ingram, IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, January/February 2007. The reader’s attention is drawn to the many photos taken during the period.
  • “A Window on the Past”, Lindsay Ingram, IEEE Power and Energy Magazine, July/August 2005.

The first article above uses the following very important article as its basis:

  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, 60,000-Volt Hydro-Electric Plant, V.D. Moody, June 23, 1906, Electrical World, Vol.47.

Mr Moody was a junior engineer with the New York consulting firm owned by Dr. Fred Stark Pearson which provided all required services for its completion.


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