An abundant and renewable resourceQuébec has vast hydraulic resources, in the form of some 500,000 lakes and 4,500 rivers that cover 12% of its surface area. Hydro-Québec has developed 75 rivers for power generation. The company operates 26 large reservoirs, 664 dams and 97 control structures, while taking care to preserve the water bodies’ quality and share their use.
By utilizing a renewable resource, Hydro-Québec ensures that it can meet the energy needs of present and future generations while preserving the environment. Water flowing through the turbines of a hydroelectric generating station does not suffer any deterioration and is returned, in its entirety, to the river.
Complementarity of hydro and wind powerWhile continuing to develop hydropower, its main means of generation, Hydro-Québec is supporting the growth of another renewable: wind power. The company purchases wind power from independent producers and integrates this output into its grid in a stable, reliable fashion. By 2015, it plans to have added 4,000 MW in wind power.
To make the most of wind power potential, a reliable source of baseload energy is required to compensate for the variability of wind. Fluctuating wind conditions mean that, on a yearly basis, a wind turbine generates about 35% of the energy it could theoretically produce if it operated at full capacity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is why wind power must be combined with other energy sources to meet demand. Countries that are large producers of wind power, like Germany, turn to fossil fuel sources to provide baseload energy. Québec, on the other hand, is fortunate in being able to rely on a clean, renewable, low-emission source to support wind power.
Map of contracted wind capacity
Emergence of new forms of energy based on water power
Hydro-Québec is exploring a new research avenue involving renewables based on water power, such as hydrokinetic and salinity gradient (osmotic) energy. To assess the performance of submerged river turbines used for hydrokinetic generation and ways of integrating them into the power grid, it is working with RSW RER on a project to install two prototypes near Montréal. The company is also continuing discussions with the Norwegian Statkraft Group to determine ways in which Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ, could help speed up the development of salinity gradient energy. Statkraft, a world leader in the field, has been testing a prototype power plant in the Oslo fjord since November 2009. This plant uses the pressure created by the natural migration of fresh water to salt water through a membrane to drive a turbine and generate electricity. In Québec, the mouths of major rivers in the Côte-Nord region, in Baie-James and in the southern part of Hudson Bay have attractive potential for the long-term development of this renewable energy source.
Types of hydroelectric generating stations (French only)
In 2004, the International Conference for Renewable Energies, held in Bonn, Germany, brought together officials and other delegates from 154 countries, including Australia, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Mexico, Japan, China, Italy, Vietnam, Denmark, France, the United States and Canada. The participants declared that renewable energies included solar, wind, hydropower, biomass (including biofuels) and geothermal.
SALINITY GRADIENT ENERGY
Salinity gradient (osmotic) energy is the energy released when a freshwater current meets a saltwater current. The two are separated by a semipermeable membrane. By osmosis, the fresh water migrates to the salt water, creating increased pressure in the mass of salt water. This pressure drives a turbine that generates electricity.
A hydrokinetic power facility consists of one or more submerged or semi-submerged turbines that are driven by the current. This technology does not entail building any retaining structures (dams or dikes), but the site where it is used must fulfill specific conditions in terms of water depth and current velocity.