The Canadian Niagara Power Company (CNP) was incorporated in 1892. Under the leadership of William Birch Rankine, the CNP built a hydro-electric generating plant which was located approximately 457 metres above the Horseshoe Falls. This hydro-electric power station was inaugurated as the William Birch Rankine Power Station in 1927 and began to generate electricity on January 1st 1905. The Rankine Power Station had two 10,000 electrical horsepower generators when it first opened.
Principal investors in this power project included the Rothchilds, J. P. Morgan, and John Jacob Astor IV.
The power house is built on what used to be Cedar Island and takes advantage of the normal river current which used to flow around the island. A submerged weir now diverts water into the forebay and enters the power house through steel penstocks. These penstocks lead to the turbines which are located near the bottom of the wheel pit, 40 metres under ground. After the water passes through the turbines it is discharged through a 60 metre long tunnel to the river below.
In 1907 another milestone was made by the power station. The Rankine Power Station provided its first long distance electricity to the Village of Fort Erie (36.6 km from Niagara Falls).
By 1927, construction of the Rankine Power Station was completed. The final cost of construction of this power station including the installation of its eleven generators cost $5,199,827.78.
The station is in operation today as part of the Niagara Mohawk and Fortis Incorporated Power Group. Also CNP continues to provide power to approximately 14,000 Fort Erie households, businesses and industries. A big portion of the power supplies are distributed throughout Ontario and New York State. The eleven generators produce 100,000 horsepower. The generators have vertical shafts, wound for three-phase current, producing 11,000 volts of 25 cycle power at 250 revolutions per minute.
The Canadian Niagara Power Company is the only Niagara Falls power company to remain privately owned. It was initially affiliated to the Niagara Falls Power Company and then in 1950, it became a subsidiary of the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.
In 2000, the Fortis Incorporated Power Group purchased this hydro-electric power generating station. It is the last of the low head power stations remaining at Niagara Falls since the former Toronto Power Station (Electrical Development Company) and the Ontario Power Company are not being used anymore.
Since 2001, based upon an agreement between the Fortis Group and Ontario Power Generation, the Rankine Power Station has not been producing any power. The 25 cycle power was produced at the Rankine Station is now being produced at the Sir Adam Beck Hydro-Electric Power Generating Station #1 in a more economical manner. As part of this agreement Ontario Power Generation is paying the Fortis Group for the amount of power that the Rankine Station would normally have produced.
Today the Rankine Station is motionless with reduced staffs that ensure the station is being mechanically maintained. This is done so that if required, it can, at a moments notice, begin producing power. Ironically, the Rankine Station receives electrical power from the Sir Adam Beck Power Station to do this.
Currently the future of the Rankine Power Station as a functioning power station is questionable. Negotiations were underway with Ontario Power Generation and the Niagara Parks Commission in order to renew the lease of the water rights, expiring in 2009, as well as to allow a switch from its current 25 hertz power to 60 hertz power. The problem is that the cost to retro-fit this power station from 25 cycle to 60 cycle power will be too expensive. It appears that its water rights may not be renewed in 2009 which would lead to the retirement of the Rankine Power Station.