The True Facts About Site C

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:08 am by Administrator

Note: Figures in this blog post were adjusted on December 12, 2017 to reflect the increase in capital cost for the Site C dam (from $9.1 Billion to $10 Billion).  In addition, the calculations regarding the number of solar panels and associated costs that would be involved to generate the equivalent amount of electricity were changed to use cost and production data from the Sun Mine in Kimberley now that almost 2 years worth of actual data is available.


This is the most likely multi-generational cost of electricity from Site C. That should be compared to the $68/MW-Hour paid for Private Power Purchases that BC Hydro was forced to negotiate with for-profit companies. For a full discussion of how this number was calculated see my previous post on LCOE for hydro projects.

54 TW-Hours
This is the total annual electrical generation from existing legacy Hydro assets in BC.  Site C will add 5 TW-Hours.

4.6 Billion liters
Amount of gasoline consumed in BC each year
=41 TW-Hours
additional generation which will be needed when all cars and trucks are electric (a certainty over the next 50 years)

5 Billion Cubic Meters
Annual domestic consumption of natural gas in BC
=52 TW-Hours
additional generation which will be needed when we stop burning fossil fuels to heat homes and businesses

28 Million
Number of solar panels that would have to be installed in BC to generate the same amount of power as Site C
$37 Billion
The cost to install those solar panels – and we still would have no power at night.

Number of wind turbines that would have to be installed in BC to generate the same amount of power as Site C
$5 Billion
The cost to install those turbines which would have to be located on pristine mountain-tops causing significant habitat destruction – and we still would have no power on the frequent days when winds are calm across BC.  Note also that the best wind resources in the province are on the north section of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii.  Installation of a larger number of wind turbines in these areas would likely encounter significant protests from environmental groups.

8 Minutes
The length of time that the largest battery complex in the world could produce electricity equivalent to the output from Site C

In Conclusion
If we think we’re going to need additional electricity capacity in the future why wouldn’t we build Site C now when interest rates are low? Do we think construction costs are going to decrease in the future?

Site C is the best renewable energy option for BC – for today

… and for future generations


Detailed back-up for the numbers:

Generation from Existing Legacy Hydro Assets of 54 GW-Hours

Available form the BC Hydro web site.

Multi-generational cost for Site C electricity of $36/hour

This is an average value over the next 100 years with the first 30 years running at $107/MW-Hour while the capital costs are paid off through a bond bearing 4.5% interest and the next 70 years only with operating costs initially at $10 million/year escalating with a 1.5% rate of inflation.  Details  can be found in a previous post.

Gasoline Sales and Required Generation to power Electric Vehicles

Gasoline sales from Statistics Canada.  Conversion to TW-Hours: 4.6 Billion liters of gasoline = 4.6 * .264 = 1.214 Billion U.S. gallons.  The energy content of this is 33.7 KW-hours/U.S. gallon.  Therefore the electrical generation required to replace the burning of gasoline is 1.214 Billion * 33.7 KW-hours = 40.9 TW-Hours.  Second source:  34.2 MJ/liter x 4.6 Billion liters = 157 Billion MJ = 43.68 TW-Hours.  To be perfectly fair electric vehicles are considerably more efficient than internal combustion engines but I have not included the 1.8 Billion liters of diesel fuel which has a higher energy content than gasoline and I have not accounted for any growth in the number of vehicles in BC in the next 100 years so I believe the 40+ TW-hours of needed electricity generation growth is very conservative.

Natural Gas Consumption and Required Generation to heat homes and businesses with electricity

Consumption of 5 Billion CM from BC Government spreadsheet.  Multiplying by .0373 gives .1865 Billion GJ and dividing by 3.6 gives .0518 Billion MW-Hours or 51.8 TW-Hours.  Second source: 5 BCM natural gas x 35.7 converts to 178.5 Trillion BTU which is the equivalent of 52.31 TW-Hours.

Equivalent Number of Solar Panels and Cost

Site C is estimated to generate 5 TW-Hours of electricity per year which translates into average generation of .582 GW (5,100 GW-Hours/24*365).

The Sun Mine located in Kimberley came on-line in 2015.  It is a truly amazing complex and represents the absolute best case scenario for solar in BC.  Located in the southern part of the province with excellent solar resources and mounted on dual axis tracking racks, the Sun Mine achieves summer time capacity factors of 30% – better than Hawaii  (by comparison the OASIS project at BCIT in the lower mainland has reported estimated capacity factors ranging from 2.8% in December to 14.2% in August).

The problem is that maximum electricity demand in BC is in the winter.  During the months of December and January the Sun Mine has produced a total of 249 MWh over the past two years.  During that time Site C would have produced about 1,700 GWh of electricity, almost 7,000 times as much if producing at a capacity factor of 55%.

The Sun Mine facility includes 4,000 solar panels.  Therefore the number of solar panels required to match average Site C production is 4,000 x 7,000 = 28 million.

The Sun Mine cost $5.3 million to construct.  Therefore to generate as much electricity as the average Site C output from solar would cost on the order of $5.3 million x 7,000 = $37 Billion.

Even this estimate for the cost of solar to replace Site C is far too low.  During the winter months Site C is likely to be producing at much higher capacity factors than the 55% average.  Based upon the Sun Mine, the cost for solar to fully replace Site C at maximum production would be over $65 Billion.

In order for solar to be available for the peak demand hours on cold winter nights some form of energy storage system would have to be used.  At current prices the cost of battery storage would add another $4 Billion to the total.

Equivalent Number of Wind Turbines and Cost

Modern wind turbines vary in nameplate capacity from 2.5-3 MW. Average capacity factors for wind turbines in Germany, which has 47 GW of wind generation capacity (largest in the world) can be calculated from total generation of electricity of 77.8 TW-Hours to be 19%. The EIA reported a capacity factor of 34% for U.S. wind generation which is concentrated in very good wind resource areas in Texas and the prairies. On balance it would be reasonable to assume that large scale development of onshore wind in BC could achieve a capacity factor of no more than 30%.

Under that assumption the wind capacity required to match Site C would be .582/.3 = 1.94 GW which would require the installation of between 650 and 750 wind turbines. As reported by the EIA the average cost to install wind generation is $US1.9/watt which would translate into a cost of $4.81 Billion using current exchange rates.  However, the average cost of installation in BC is likely to be considerably higher than the average cost of installation in the U.S. because of the mountainous terrain and the location of the best wind resources in relatively remote areas.

Amount of Time that the Largest Battery Complex in the World could Generate Electricity Equivalent to Site C

The largest battery complex in the world is being installed in Australia in response to a regional blackout that took place when a large wind farm stopped generating quite suddenly due to high winds.  The capacity of this complex, the cost of which has not been revealed but has been estimated at $50 Million, is 139 MWh.  The capacity of Site C is 1,100 MW.  Therefore the theoretical equivalent time that the battery complex could replace Site C is 139/1100 x 60 minutes = 8 minutes.

The battery complex can only produce 100 MW output so to be absolutely accurate it should be stated that the battery complex could produce 9% of the output of Site C for 1 hour and 23 minutes.


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