how ontario powered canada`s war effort



how ontario powered canada`s war effort
“We look to the days of peace when
there will be power for every use,”
reads a 1942 war­time bulletin from the
Hydro­Electric Power Commission of
Ontario. “In the meantime ... do your
part ... invest in victory by saving your
share of electricity every day.”
It seems almost unfathomable to most
of us today, but this was the reality for
many Canadians only 75 years ago.
The outbreak of the Second World War
shattered the calm of peace­time in this
country. As an Allied nation, Canada
entered the war in 1939, and its
soldiers fought bravely on the frontlines
in Europe, Africa and Asia. But to fuel
the fight, and build the planes, ships,
tanks and other instruments of war,
Canada required electricity – a lot of it.
This meant its citizens had to change
their everyday routines in a hurry.
“Not a single unit of electricity, for light,
heat or power should be wasted,”
reads another appeal for conservation
from 1943. “Turn off all electric lights
when not in use. Switch off your range
elements promptly as soon as food is
At its peak, Ontario’s wartime plants
required more than 1,000,000
hydroelectric horsepower (equivalent to
more than 745 megawatts) to produce
enough steel and aluminum for guns,
tanks, and cargo vessels to be used
overseas. Adding to that demand was
the fact that more than half of
Canada’s wartime weapons were
made in Ontario.
To meet the need of Canada’s war
production, the province undertook a large
construction program from September
1939 to the end of April 1943 with 1,215
individual projects varying in size and
purpose. Three new hydro developments
in particular served as the backbone for
Ontario’s “Hydro built for victory”
In 1941, the Big Eddy Generating Station
(GS) on the Muskoka River went into
service, providing additional supply for war
production. It continues to operate today as
an eight megawatt hydro station. Barrett
Chute GS was constructed on the
Madawaska River and became operational
a year later in 1942. Today it boasts a
capacity of 176 megawatts. And the first
unit of the DeCew II hydro station near St.
Catharines, Ont., was up and running by
October 1943. Today, the two­unit
generating station produces 144
megawatts of power.
In addition to these three new stations,
Bark Lake dam on the Madawaska was re­
constructed to raise the level by eight
metres, creating a significant storage
reservoir for more available power.
These efforts not only helped Ontario
power Canada’s war effort; they also
helped propel the province’s economic
boom after the war. With newfound peace
came demands of another kind – from
television sets, kitchen appliances and new
inventions like the transistor. Much has
changed since then, but OPG’s fleet of
hydroelectric generating stations continue
to produce clean, renewable and always
reliable power for Ontario.

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