An Historic Event
Published in Timmins Times March 4, 2010 By Diane Armstrong
Monday, March first, 2010 marked the end of an era for 25-cycle (hertz) hydro-electric
power in Canada, and it happened right here in Timmins. After Benny Hollinger and
Noah Timmins discovered the Hollinger Mine, they realized that without electricity,
working the gold mine would be a tremendous labour-intensive operation. In 1910, a
Syndicate under the name of the Porcupine Power Company built a dam on the
Mattagami River at Sandy Falls and by 1911 two of the generators were supplying
electricity to the mine.
As other mines developed, so too did the need for electric power. In 1912 a company
called the Northern Canada Power Company took over the holdings of the Porcupine
Power Company and they built a generating station at Wawaitin, with 4 generators
installed between 1912 and 1918. Northern Canada Power Company grew quickly, with
another generating station on the Mattagami River built in 1923 at Lower Sturgeon. They
had already built hydro-electric generating stations on the Blanche River and the
Montreal River. These latter two served the needs of the silver mines of Cobalt and the
gold mines of Kirkland Lake. The unique characteristic of all these plants was that they
produced 25-cycle (hertz) power; the reason being that the slower cycle was more suited
to hoist operations for bringing men and ore up and down the mine shafts.
In 1928, the company underwent another name change and became the Northern
Ontario Power Company and in 1945 it was then known as the Hydro-Electric Power
Commission of Ontario, or HEPC. Either one seemed to be too long a moniker for people
to use and because the majority of our electricity was from water power - "hydro" being
Greek for water - the term Hydro came into general usage. Even though coal and steam
plants also produced electricity, in 1974 the Power Corporation Act designated the new
official name, Ontario Hydro.
In 1999 and under the Energy Competition Act, Ontario Hydro ceased to exist as the
company was split into 5 companies. Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One were
initially intended to operate as private businesses, rather than as Crown Corporations. As
the name suggests, Ontario Power Generation, produces electric power; Hydro One
manages the transmission and lines.
Ontario Power Generation's Northeast Plant Group operates 13 hydroelectric generating
stations on four rivers - the Abitibi, Matabitchuan, Mattagami and the Montreal rivers.
They have been serving the electricity needs of the province for 100 years.
In 1961, the power company embarked on a massive project to convert the province to
60-cycle (hertz) power. The first thing the average home owner noticed was that lighting
was constant, with no flickering. Wawaitin continued to produce 25-cycle power, but it
was converted to 60-cycle when it reached Sudbury Frequency Changer and
Transforming Station. There being no further need for 25-cycle electricity, those
hydroelectric plants were either shut down, converted or rebuilt. The historic plant at
Wawaitin was the last 25-cycle generating station in Canada. In 2008, work began on a
new station nearby and this one will produce 60-cycle power.