On New Years day 1917, voters approved the construction of the Queenston-Chippawa power project. Construction began in May and continued for the next four and a half years.
The digging of the hydro canal was much harder than initially thought, because of a couple problems. Firstly it was 20 kilometres long and challenged the building of the Panama Canal. Secondly the power canal had to flow downhill the entire distance in order to generate a flow of water, but part of the route from Chippawa to Queenston was uphill.
From where the Niagara River meets the Welland River, a 6 kilometre stretch of the Welland River had to be widened and deepened in order to reverse the natural direction of the water flow. Originally the water of the Welland River flowed eastward and flowed into the Niagara River. The river flow was reversed so that waters now flowed from the Niagara River westward into the Welland River.
The Welland River section is approximately 91.4 metres wide. Excluding the river, the hydro canal is 14 kilometres long. The 2.4 kilometres long earth section is 93.5 metres wide. The 11.7 kilometre long and13.7 metres wide of rock section has an average depth of the water between 10.4to 12 metres deep. The maximum depth of earth and rock cut was 43.5 metres. The water flows at a rate 62.3 cubic meters per second. The canal ends at the giant forebay built at the entrance to the Sir Adam Beck #1 power station. The concrete trapezoidal section of the canal over the ancient St. David’s buried gorge is 93.6 metres wide at the surface and 56.4 metres wide at the base.
The flow to the canal has been drained and/or drastically reduced for examination and remedial work in 1955, 1964 and 1982.
The Powerhouse was 180 metres in length, 41 metres wide and 18 stories in height. It consisted of ten generators and cost $76 million dollars to build.
Construction work started in May 1917 and water was turned into the canal on 24 December 1921. The project was originally known as the Queenston – Chippawa Power Station.
- Generators: Units #1, #2 and # 4 went in service on 26 January 1922.
- Generators: Unit #5 went into service in 1923.
- Generators: Units #3, #6 and # 7 went into service in 1924.
- Generators: Units # 8 and #9 went into service on December 5th 1925.
- Generators: Unit #10 went into service in July of 1930.
The turbo-generator units turn at 187.5 rpm (revolutions per minute) and have short vertical shafts. The Francis type turbines are single-runner. The alternators are 12,000 volts, three phase; all were 25-cycle originally although units #9 and #10 were changed to 60-cycle later. Each unit has its own set of transformers and its own transmission circuit. Each generator unit weighs approximately 1,044,000 kilogram and each transformer weighs 100,000 kilograms.
There are ten concrete encased, steel penstocks. Each penstock is 116.7 metres long and 4.9 metres in diameter. At the base of each penstock is a valve that regulates the water flow before entering the turbine. At the entrance to each penstock, there are three openings. Each opening has a set of service gates and trash racks that protect the turbines below from being damaged or clogged by large objects.
The ten generators produce 500,000 kVA, apparent power, of electricity with a net head of 91.4 metres. The ten generators of Sir Adam Beck #1 Power Station produce 403,900 kilowatts of electricity.
Ten thousand men worked for an average weekly pay of $35.
In 1920, the 18 year fight between Sir Adam Beck and the private power syndicate ended when the Ontario Hydro Power Commission purchased the Toronto Power Plant and the Toronto Electric Light Company.
In 1925, Sir Adam Beck died of pernicious anaemia, a loss of red blood cells. Beck had given Ontario the cheapest publicly owned hydro-electric power system in the world.
On August 15th 1950, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, the Queenston Power Plant was renamed Sir Adam Beck – Niagara Generating Station #1.