The True Facts About Site C

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:08 am by Administrator


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

21 Million
Number of solar panels that would have to be installed in BC to generate the same amount of power as Site C
$19 Billion
The cost to install those solar panels – and we still would have no power at night and very little during the day in winter.

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.

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 $32/hour

This is an average value over the next 100 years with the first 30 years running at $73/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.  The capacity factor of solar in Germany, the country with the second largest number of solar panels in the world and at roughly the same latitude as BC can be calculated using 40 GW capacity and 37.5 TW-Hours of generation in 2016 to be 10.7%.  In the Lower Mainland the OASIS project at BCIT achieved an estimated annual capacity factor of 7% in 2014 (the actual generation amounted to 2% of capacity because of ongoing operational issues).  The estimated capacity factor for OASIS varied from 2.8% in December to 14.2% in August).

The estimated net generation capacity at Site C is .582 GW (5,100 GW-Hours/24*265).  Using the higher (more optimistic) German capacity factor for solar it would take .582/.11 = 5.29 GW of solar capacity to generate as much electricity as the Site C dam.  The most common PV solar panels have a capacity of .25 KW.  Therefore it would take more than 21 million solar panels to equal the generation of Site C.

The cost to install PV solar was estimated by the EIA to be $US3.7/watt in 2013.  It has been reported that the Canadian average cost is about $3.60/watt.  That would make the cost to install enough solar panels to generate the same annual average electricity $3.60 x 5.29 GW = $19.044 Billion.

However, this figure seriously underestimates the cost of the solar panels required.  British Columbia’s peak electricity demand comes on cold days in December and January when capacity factors for solar would be 2-3%.  As a result it would cost at least $60 Billion to install enough solar panels to generate electricity equal to that of Site C in December and January.

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.

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