Chaudière Falls Generating Station No. 5: Preserving the past while powering a sustainable future

Chaudière Falls is home to Canada’s oldest hydroelectric station still in operation and is considered the birthplace of electricity. Two of the site’s oldest buildings survived the Great Fire of 1900.


Hydroelectric facilities, like those at Chaudiere Falls, have minimal impact on the environment because they don’t produce pollution or greenhouse gases. Instead they rely on the natural flow of their water source, and can generate power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.

In recent years, Hydro Ottawa, via its affiliate Portage Power, embarked on expanding and modernizing its generating facilities at Chaudière Falls in order to: produce clean, renewable energy in an environmentally responsible way; be an open public space to be enjoyed by all; and serve as a place of recognition and celebration of Canada’s First Nations and Ottawa’s industrialist past.


Built entirely below ground, the new 29-megawatt station was designed to have minimal-to-zero impacts on the visual, natural and aquatic environments. The refurbishments include new turbines and generator upgrades, extensive upstream and downstream civil works and other electrical and mechanical improvements.

To ensure safe fish passage through the facility, the design incorporated leading technological solutions to protect migrating American eel, and facilitate their upstream migration past the numerous hydro-electric facilities at Chaudière.

Using a restorative philosophy, the new powerhouse maintained elements of the city’s industrialist past and changed the way people access and experience Chaudière Falls – offering safe viewing platforms and greater public access in the form of a defined corridor on the roof of the new below-grade hydro facility. A new bridge across the intake canal is open for pedestrian and cyclist traffic.


“This expansion presented a unique opportunity for Hydro Ottawa to contribute to a more sustainable and healthy river,” says Bryce Conrad, President and CEO, Hydro Ottawa. “As part of our environmental commitment, we were able to preserve the landscape, divert endangered species, increase our renewable energy production and reduce our carbon dioxide emission by about 115,000 tonnes each year.”

Energized in 2017, the Chaudière Expansion project (Generating Station 5 or GS5), is Portage Power’s largest producer of clean, renewable hydroelectricity at an output of 29 megawatts (MW). In 2021, two other hydroelectric stations on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River at  Chaudière Falls – Hull 2 and Gatineau Generating Station No. 1 – resumed operations after extensive refurbishments. Together, upgrades to these stations boosted Portage Power’s overall renewable generation capacity to 128 megawatts – an increase of more than 500 per cent since 2012.