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Reality Check

RC-31: How Many Hydro Power Converter Stations Does Manitoba Have?

Date Posted: January 6, 2012

Hydroelectric generating stations in northern Manitoba produce most of Manitoba's electricity. Electricity travels exceptionally long distances to southern Manitoba, where most of the electricity is used. Around 70% of Manitoba's electricity is delivered from northern Manitoba to southern Manitoba via Bipoles I & II.

Generating stations produce alternating current (AC) electricity, which is also typically consumed in AC form. Converter Stations convert electricity from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) to transmit electricity efficiently as high voltage direct current (HVDC) over great distances.

Three converter stations operate in Manitoba. The Raddison and Hendlay Converter Stations near Gillam, serve as the northern origin point to convert electricity from AC to DC to feed into Bipoles I & II. The two Bipoles run south 900 km (560 miles) parallel to each other between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba. The Bipoles end near Rosser, MB, about 26 km (16 miles) northwest of downtown Winnipeg, where the Dorsey Converter Station is also located. The Dorsey Converter station re-converts electricity from DC to AC for use in Manitoba and export to the United States.

Manitoba Hydro intends to build Bipole III down the west side of the province to reduce the risk of a power failure if the existing parallel Bipoles were disrupted by weather or other means, and to facilitate electrical exports. Bipole III would require two additional Converter Stations. Keewatinoow Converter Station, located northwest of Gillam, at the site of the potential Conawapa Generating Station, will serve as the origin point converting AC to DC to feed Bipole III. The 1400 km (870 mile) Bipole III transmission line will end east of Winnipeg at the Riel Converter Station.

The Riel Reliability Improvement Initiative project received an Environment Act license April 2009 and completion is expected May 2014. The project will modify the existing 500 kV high voltage international transmission line running from Dorsey Converter Station north of Winnipeg to the Forbes Converter Station in Minnesota, by establishing new 500-230-kV transformers at the Riel Converter Station site.

In addition to converter stations, at least hundreds of substations operate in Manitoba. Substations either step up, or step down electrical voltage for transmission and distribution. Generally voltage is stepped up to transmit power distances up to hundreds of kilometres away, and voltage is stepped down for local transmission and distribution to residential, commercial and industrial users. The size of substations vary depending on whether they serve mainly residential properties, or also commercial and industrial units, etc. Wind projects also require a substation.

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