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.