Columbia Power Corporation (Columbia Power) and the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) purchased the Brilliant Dam in 1996. The dam, which was constructed in the 1940s, is located on Highway 3A, just north of Castlegar, BC. At the time of purchase, the dam was capable of producing 125 megawatts of electricity. Since the acquisition, a series of capital improvements to both the dam and the powerhouse have been undertaken. These projects include concrete rehabilitation work, the switchyard replacement program, spillway gate refurbishment project, the seismic stabilization project and the upgrades and life extension project.
CONCRETE REHABILITATION PROJECTConcrete rehabilitation was the first project undertaken by Columbia Power and CBT, and began in 1996. The spillways were repaired and the spillway deck was widened to allow for vehicle access. The project, which was completed in 1998, helped to improve the lifespan of the structure. In 2010, rehabilitation of the nearly 70-year old concrete began again and is ongoing and will continue over the next few years. Surficial damage to the concrete due to erosion and freeze/thaw damage is being addressed in a phased manner.
SWITCHYARD REPLACEMENT PROGRAMWork on the $6.6 million project to replace the original switchyard at the Brilliant Dam was completed in late spring of 2001. The new switchyard is located adjacent to the original switchyard at the dam, and is safer, more efficient and easier to maintain.
New circuit breakers containing no insulating oil were used in the new switchyard, compared to the bulk oil circuit breakers used in the original switchyard. These new circuit breakers pose less of a potential pollution hazard since they contain no oil. The new switchyard was also necessary to handle the increased generating capacity created by the Brilliant Upgrades Project
Work on the project began in the summer of 2000. Detailed public consultation was conducted before the start of construction, and was maintained during project construction.
SEISMIC STABILIZATION PROJECTPhase one work on the seismic stabilization of the Brilliant Dam began in July of 2000. The dam, which was originally constructed in the 1940s, did not meet the increased standards for earthquake and other natural disasters prepared by the Canadian Dam Association.
Work to ensure the dam met these guidelines consisted of anchoring the dam to the underlying bedrock. A total of 53 anchors, 41 in the spillway and 12 in the water intake structure, varying in length from 24 to 57 metres were installed. Holes for the anchors were drilled into the bedrock, and an anchor assembly was placed into each hole. Each assembly was grouted and tensioned, further securing the dam to the bedrock.
The phase one seismic stabilization of the Brilliant Dam was completed in December 2000. In 2010, the second phase of this work began to ensure the stability of the fore bay wall. In the same fashion as the work on the main dam, stability during a major earthquake will be ensured by the installation of post-tensioned anchor cables into the underlying bedrock.
SPILLWAY GATE REFURBISHMENT PROJECTThe eight spillway gates at Brilliant dam are currently being overhauled, with one or two gates being done each year. Before being sandblasted, the gates are wrapped in plastic to prevent the old paint from entering the river. The spill gates are then repainted and electrical and mechanical components replaced as warranted. This work will conclude by 2014.
BRILLIANT UPGRADES/LIFE EXTENSION PROJECTIn April 2000, work began to upgrade and replace key components at the dam. Now complete, the multi-year upgrade/life extension project has increased generating capacity at the dam by approximately 20 megawatts. The upgrade work also improved reliability and reduces the risk of sudden, unplanned outages. In addition, the two-year project created over 53 person-years of employment.
The upgrade and life extension work included the replacement of generator windings, turbine runners, transformers and other pieces of critical equipment in each of the four turbines. In order to streamline the upgrade work, it was combined with the planned replacement of other components as part of an overall life extension program. No new flooding occurred as a result of the upgrade or life extension projects.
Columbia Power received all necessary approvals and a water license to take advantage of the increased generating capacity that resulted from the upgrade work. Power sales resulting from these upgrades will increase income for Columbia Power and CBT.
The project also produces positive environmental benefits through the reduction of Total Gas Pressure (TGP) downstream of the dam.
(above) The Brilliant Dam and
(right) a diagram of a turbine at Brilliant Dam