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Turbines power revenue stream

Turbines at Nanaimo’s $11.2-million reservoir system will power a new source of revenue.

The City of Nanaimo has agreed to funnel hydro electricity from its closed reservoir into the grid this spring as part of a new arrangement with B.C. Hydro.

The move, which could start mid-April, will make the city one of the first municipalities in the province to roll out an energy recovery project from water, according to Doug Little, B.C. Hydro’s vice president of energy planning and economic development. He calls it an innovative use of the new city water system.

The  reservoir is expected to generate about 900 megawatts of energy each year  and provide enough electricity to power up 70 homes. It will also produce between $70,000 and $90,000 in revenue each year for the City of Nanaimo, which will use the dollars to offset water operation costs.

The dollars are not expected to translate into any noticeable savings on residents’ water bills.

“I think it just makes good sense to ... take advantage of the fact that the energy is there,” said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources. “It makes good sense from an environmental point of view and it also makes good sense to take advantage of the revenue.”

The City of Nanaimo has been working on the new reservoir system since 2012 to replace an old open-air structure. The project is needed to prevent contamination of treated water from the new South Forks plant.

Officials had always planned on generating hydro electricity at the project, which is located next to a major power line and presented a chance to build in energy-harnessing equipment. The equipment cost $800,000.

It is the second facility in Nanaimo that harvests power, following South Forks dam, but the first to sell it to B.C. Hydro.

Work on the reservoir is expected to wrap up within three weeks.

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