Lower Churchill Project

The Lower Churchill Project is an ongoing hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada, to develop the remaining 35 per cent of the Churchill River that was not developed by the Churchill Falls Generating Station. The station at Muskrat Falls will have a capacity of over 824 MW and provide 4.9 TWh of electricity per year.[5]

Muskrat Falls Generation Facility
Newfoundland and Labrador
Coordinates53°14′44″N 60°46′22″W
Construction began2013 [1]
Opening dateExpected 2019 [2]
Construction cost$11.4 billion[2]
Owner(s)Nalcor Energy
Dam and spillways
Type of damRoller compacted concrete
ImpoundsChurchill River
Elevation at crest39.5 m[3]
Spillway type1 overflow spillway and 1 spillway with submerged radial gates [4]:87–88
Spillway capacity5930 m3/s [3]:21
Normal elevation39 m [3]:20
Power Station
Turbines4 x 206 MW Kaplan turbines [3]:23
Installed capacity824 MW [4]:86
Annual generation4.5 TWh/yr [4]:86

A $6.2 billion deal between Newfoundland and Labrador's Nalcor Energy and Halifax-based Emera to develop the project was announced in November 2010.[6]

The project is more than $6 billion over budget[7] and two years late as of 2019. Projected cost overruns of 50% from C$7.4B to C$12.7B, poor planning, lack of engineering experience, and related assumptions that were invalid, misleading or later turned out to be incorrect have led to Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall declaring the project a boondoggle.[2] Premier Dwight Ball called for a public inquiry[8] into the project that started in September 2018.

Technical plan


Reservoir impoundment was completed in 2019 with the flooding of 41 km2 of land to create the 101 km2 reservoir. Containment is by a two-part concrete dam totalling 757 metres long. This will power an 834 MW generating station.[9]


Power will be transmitted to the island of Newfoundland via a 2.1 billion dollar high-voltage direct current line. The total length is to be 1,100 km, of which 30 km is are submarine power cables under the Strait of Belle Isle.[9] Construction began in 2014 and ended in 2018.[10]

Power will be further transmitted from Stephenville on the island of Newfoundland to Nova Scotia via a 180 km sub-sea line to Point Aconi on Cape Breton Island. Construction is a 1.2 billion dollar joint venture between Nalcor and Emera (the now-privatized Nova Scotia Power).[9] The link came online in December 2017.[11]

Once on the island of Newfoundland and the mainland of the Maritimes, power will be distributed via the existing grid. Emera hopes to sell surplus power via a proposed 563 km underwater transmission line from New Brunswick to Massachusetts.[12]

Environmental impact

Researchers from Harvard University found that mercury levels in fish would rise as a result of the project.[13] After protests led by Indigenous groups in Central Labrador in 2016, an Agreement was reached by Labrador’s three Indigenous groups (Nunatsiavut Government, Innu Nation and the NunatuKavut Community Council) and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador outlining the establishment of an independent committee to make recommendations on mitigating potential impacts of methylmercury on human health from the Lower Churchill Project at Muskrat Falls, Labrador.[14]

See also


  1. "Construction schedule to first power" (JPG). Nalcor Energy. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  2. Sue Bailey. "'Project was not the right choice': Muskrat Falls estimate surpasses $11-billion". The Globe and Mail Inc. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  3. "Nalcor's submission to the Board of Commissioners" (PDF). Nalcor Energy. November 10, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
  4. Rae, P. (January 2012). "5". Report on Two Generation Expansion Alternatives for the Island Interconnected Electrical System (PDF) (Report). Vol. II. Winnipeg: Manitoba Hydro International. Retrieved 2014-07-26.
  5. "Lower Churchill Project". Nalcor Energy. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  6. McCarthy, Shawn (18 November 2010). "Churchill hydro deal signals era of Atlantic co-operation – The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
  7. Cox, Sarah (2019). "A reckoning for Muskrat Falls". The Narwhal. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  8. "Premier Ball Announces Muskrat Falls Public Inquiry". www.releases.gov.nl.ca. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  9. "Muskrat Falls Development Generation and Transmission". Government of Newfoundland and Labrardo. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  10. McKenzie-Sutter, Holly. "Transmission link between Labrador and Newfoundland energized as Muskrat Falls project nears completion". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  11. "New power transmission towers connect Muskrat Falls, mainland Nova Scotia". Global news. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  12. Withers, Paul. "Halifax-based Emera makes plans for $2B Atlantic Link". CBC. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  13. "Inadequate consultation on the Muskrat Falls project". Policy Options.
  14. "Timeline - Independent Expert Advisory Committee". Independent Expert Advisory Committee. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
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