Power planning for the future: Near and far(haven)

Barrhaven...or as some locals affectionately call it: Far Haven, was once a small rural neighbourhood in the City of Nepean when it was established in the 1960s. Today, it’s the second-fastest growing area in our National Capital Region after Gloucester-South Nepean. In 2006, the population of Barrhaven was approximately 34,000. A short 15 years later, according to City of Ottawa estimates, it has nearly doubled with more than 65,000 residents.    

When areas begin to boom like Barrhaven and Nepean proper, Hydro Ottawa takes notice. In fact, South Nepean was initially identified by Hydro Ottawa in a 2008 business case as an area that would likely require new electricity transmission and distribution facilities to secure future electricity reliability. We weren’t wrong. 

In many cases, utilities plan decades ahead for decades to come, considering technical feasibility, the short and long-term reliability of the system, cost impacts to electricity customers, and the use of existing infrastructure if possible. 

This regional planning is something Hydro Ottawa and other utilities do in the province alongside partners like the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the provincial utility, Hydro One. Together, growth areas in the greater Ottawa region are identified, and the associated electricity supply necessary to support these rapidly growing communities are outlined in a comprehensive and detailed master plan. 

The plan incorporates the region’s unique electricity needs and considers everything from conservation, generation, transmission, distribution and other innovative means to meet these needs. 

Due to residential and commercial developments, including the new Amazon distribution centre (requiring a 10-megawatt power supply), electricity needs have doubled in the South Nepean area since 2002, and are expected to more than double again over the next 20 years.  

The Power South Nepean project was given the green light in 2016 when the IESO asked Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One to begin planning for a new transmission station and connection line. Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One are both involved because our companies have a role to play in delivering power from Ontario’s grid to electricity customers in the area.

After years of consultations that included four community open houses and meetings with landowners, elected officials, municipal representatives, government agencies, Indigenous communities, the public consultation process was completed with a Class Environmental Assessment study. This fieldwork was extensive and included pedestrian surveys, socio-economic inventories, environmental wildlife and habitat surveys, Species-at-Risk surveys, and archeological and heritage assessments.  

Hydro Ottawa broke ground in late 2019, and is now halfway through the construction of its largest municipal transformer station (ever); known as Cambrian. In addition to the new station, the project required a connection line to Hydro One’s 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission system. This meant building taller steel transmission structures and stringing a by-pass line across Highway 416, forcing the provincial highway to be closed so the work could be completed safely.

Located south of Ottawa and scheduled to be energized in 2022, Cambrian station will provide 90-megawatts of capacity to help meet the area’s growing demand and provide a second source of supply to the area; relieving stress on existing facilities that are operating near capacity. Furthermore, this project will benefit the community by also providing greater resiliency in the event of extreme weather events like heat waves, ice storms and tornadoes.

What sets this historic new station apart from others, is that Hydro Ottawa is also building one of the largest pollinator meadows of its kind in eastern Ontario on its site. It’s a partnership between Hydro Ottawa, the City of Ottawa, Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. In total, 15-acres were seeded in 2021 to create a thriving habitat, and more than 2,700 trees were planted, as part of a four-acre tree reforestation project. 

There’s still lots of work to be done on the station before it's energized in 2022, but the finish line is in sight. Substations like Cambrian are expected to last 50 years or more, guaranteeing that South Nepean will have an abundance of power to grow for many decades to come.  

Ensuring every neighbourhood in Ottawa has safe and reliable electricity is a responsibility we take seriously and continuously plan for. It’s why we regularly evaluate, replace and upgrade equipment and infrastructure across our entire electrical distribution system, whether near the downtown core or farther into suburbia. 

To see a list of other major projects Hydro Ottawa is involved in, visit our dedicated page here.


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