Bala Falls Hydro Project

  • Category: Water Power
  • Location: Ontario, Canada
  • Date started: 2017
  • Status: In Construction

Located in the heart of cottage country at the edge of the Moon River in Muskoka, Ontario, this run-of-river hydro facility is located at the footprint of an older power plant owned by Ontario Hydro. It aims to revitalize this part of the town by opening up an area previously inaccessible to the public. The project was also an important exercise in Cultural Heritage preservation.

There are new spaces for rest and relaxation and, by virtue of the power plant’s design, new sweeping vistas allow the public to observe electricity being produced, and enjoy scenic views of the Moon River.

1. About

The North Bala Small Hydro Project is a 4.7 Megawatt (MW) run-of-river waterpower facility at the south end of Bala’s North Dam, located in the Town of Bala, Township of Muskoka Lakes, Ontario. The new power plant is being built on the same site as an older power plant that existed from 1924-1972. The project is expected to:
– Improve water level and spring/fall flood control;
– Have low environmental impact due to synergy with existing structures;
– Annually offset 20,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 3,888 cars and light trucks off the road

2. Challenges

• Meeting expectations from community and regulators;
• Designing a power plant that doesn’t look like one;
• Working with land and site constraints;
• Building in a designated cultural heritage area and being sensitive to that designation.

3. Outcome

Project changes were made to accommodate the community and regulators. To address esthetical concerns, Harvard trained architect Karl Stevens was hired to design the power house under the advisement of a Design Committee composed of 8 members from the public. The new building incorporates sloped roofs and overhangs often found in Muskoka
architecture. Cultural heritage aspects are being maintained. Traditional public uses, landing and launching of canoes, picnicking and other recreational uses, are all being restored with a new park built next door.

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