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Did you know? 6 interesting facts about Robert-Bourassa Generating Station

Discover the Quebec ingenuity behind the Robert-Bourassa project!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bay project! It was in 1971 that the government of Robert Bourassa undertook the hydroelectric development of Northern Quebec. Launched with great fanfare, this development was described as the "project of the century".

To do so, the 450 miles of the James Bay highway, renamed the Billy-Diamond highway in 2020, were built in 450 days!

Today, you can visit the Robert-Bourassa development in Radisson, as well as the La Grande-1 generating station near Chisasibi. You will discover the immensity of the territory, the power of hydroelectricity, and the Quebec ingenuity hind these developments.

One of the largest construction sites in the world

The La Grande complex stretches 800 km from the La Grande-1 dam to the Caniapiscau reservoir. For nearly 25 years, this project has been the largest construction site in the world! In all, the complex comprises 11 power plants and can produce up to 17,418 MW.

The Robert-Bourassa development, also called La Grande-2, is part of this vast complex.

The largest underground hydroelectric power plant in the world

You have to slowly descend to 137 meters underground to visit the power plant and see its powerful turbines.

With its 5616 MW, and 16 generating units, it is the largest underground hydroelectric power station in the world. With its 483 meters length and 22 metres width, it could fit 5 soccer fields!

The Robert-Bourassa generating station is the most powerful in the Hydro-Québec network. Almost 20% of Quebec's electricity is produced here!

 Electricity travels from Radisson to Montreal at 300,000 km/second!

The reservoir

The reservoir measures nearly 3,000 km2, almost three times the size of Lake Saint-Jean! It could contain up to 61.7 billion cubic meters of water! 

Described as a sea of fresh water, the Robert-Bourassa reservoir is today the habitat of a diversified fauna and flora.

The spillway

The spillway, commonly known as the giant staircase, is used to release the overflow of water from the reservoir in the event of exceptional flooding.

The staircase slows down the speed of the water.

 You have to be lucky to witness the water flowing from the reservoir to the spillway! All eight gates were opened for inspection in 2018, while the last full opening was in 1987! A true "monument in the rock", the staircase is composed of ten steps. Each step measures ten metres in height and 122 metres in length, which means you could fit two football fields on each step.

Free and accessible visits for everyone

Did you know that Hydro-Québec offers free guided tours of its hydroelectric facilities?

In Radisson, you will have the opportunity to tour the Interpretation Center and watch a short film on the history of the James Bay project. You will then be taken by bus 137 metres underground to visit the Robert-Bourassa power generating station.

The circuit then leads you to the dam, the reservoir, and the spillway. Here, you realize the immensity of the Robert-Bourassa development. Then, back at the belvedere facing the giant staircase, you understand why it is called that way!

To book your visit: 1-800-291-8486

Complete your stay by listening to the tour rallies to discover the history of Radisson and follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of hydroelectric development in the region. 

Fly over the site by helicopter

There's nothing better than seeing the Robert-Bourassa development from the air!

Helicopters Whapchiwem offers tours to fly over the hydroelectric facilities. You will see the extent of the reservoir and the giant staircase.

To book a flight: 819 638-7904

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