Heritage Power

Plant 1940A

It’s what defines Nelson Hydro’s rich past, its present-day opportunities and those of tomorrow. Built in 1896, Nelson’s hydro-generation system established the city as a leader among BC’s urban centers. Now, 125 years later, the pioneering utility is one of British Columbia’s few vertically integrated, municipally-owned and operated electric utilities, generating power for more than 11,000 customers throughout Greater Nelson, Taghum, Blewett, Sproule and Grohman Creek, Harrop, Proctor and Balfour. Nelson Hydro’s affordability and reliability are rooted in deep knowledge, frontline experience and a commitment to the future energy needs of our customers and communities.

  1. The Early Days
  2. Generating Unit 1
  3. Generating Unit 2
  4. Generating Unit 3
  5. Generating Unit 4
  6. Generating Unit 5

On April 23, 1892 the “Nelson Miner” announced the incorporation of the Nelson Electric Light Company, by a private bill of the British Columbia Legislature.

It was announced that a contract for the installation of a plant, including a dam and flume at Cottonwood Canyon, had been let, in the amount of $25,000, with work to be completed in 60 days. Many delays were encountered before the plant was completed almost four years later.

February 1, 1896, it commenced operation producing power for the City of Nelson. It was the first hydroelectric plant in British Columbia; the Sandon plant was second in March 1897. The original plant consisted of a plank flume about 500 feet long, supplying an inclined steel pipe 380 feet long, the upper half of which had a 16-inch diameter and the lower half had a 14-inch diameter. This penstock drove two 36-inch Pelton waterwheels which were belted to two 35-kilowatt direct current generators producing 110 volts.

This plant was situated behind the present-day Rod and Gun Club building and the footings are still visible today. The original plant soon proved to be far too small, and on November 27, 1897, a considerable enlargement and reconstruction was completed and put into service, making a total of four generators. In the meantime, Nelson had been incorporated as a city, with John Houston as its first mayor. He was also president of the Nelson Water Works Company and president of the Nelson Electric Light Company.

Plant ConstructionA
Historic photo of original plant interior
Original Plant historic photo
Interior of original plant
Plant 1940A2
plank flume