After more than three years of construction, BC Hydro completed the Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line a bit behind schedule and at a higher cost than originally budgeted, the provincial utility said Nov. 20.
The project faced construction challenges and scheduling pressures, including a route change in 2012 and a readjustment to its original route as construction was underway. The initial in-service date for the line was October 2014, but based on feedback from the construction contractor, Flatiron Graham Joint Venture, BC Hydro pushed the in-service date to late 2015, BC Hydro said.
To help alleviate the scheduling pressures, BC Hydro crews built one of the most challenging sections of the line – a 19-kilometer stretch near Hope, B.C., that was completed in July, BC Hydro said.
“There haven’t been any major upgrades to our bulk transmission system in more than 30 years and this new line is a vital link for the future,” Bill Bennett, minister of energy and mines, said in a Nov. 20 statement.
According to TransmissionHub data, the Interior to Lower Mainland project expands BC Hydro’s transmission system to move power from generation resources on the Peace and Columbia Rivers in the northern and southern interior of British Columbia to population centers on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The project begins at the Nicola substation near Merritt, B.C., and ends at the Meridian substation in Coquitlan, near Vancouver, extending parallel to an existing 500-kV line for a majority of the route.
The new line was built “through tough and diverse terrain” in the southern interior of the province, BC Hydro said. Construction began in spring 2012 following the award of the construction contract to Flatiron Graham Joint Venture in 2011.
The final cost of the line is expected to be C$743 million, about C$18 million higher than BC Hydro’s original budget of C$725 million, the utility said.
“This line is a significant addition to our system and is one of many large projects and upgrades that are reaching completion," Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro, said in the statement.
She continued: "We're making these investments in a prudent and efficient way. BC Hydro has completed more than 550 infrastructure projects between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015,” and the projects were delivered more than C$71 million under budget.
BC Hydro is in the midst of its capital plan to invest, on average, C$2.4 billion annually over the next 10 years, with hundreds of projects underway in various stages across the province, the utility said.
Generation projects include a C$272 million upgrade and turbine replacement at the GM Shrum, the province’s largest generation facility that was completed in October. Refurbishing five generation units at the WAC Bennett Dam makes them more efficient and allows the facility to generate more power with the same amount of water flow, BC Hydro said.
On Nov. 10, BC Hydro said it completed a C$65 million upgrade to the transmission network in Merritt that included a new substation, a new 138-kV line to replace an existing 69-kV line and upgrades to an existing substation.
The new 35-kilometer line runs between the existing Highland substation and a new substation, the Merritt substation on Spring Bank Ave., in the Lower Nicola community in southern B.C. The new substation was built on the site of an existing, lower-capacity substation, BC Hydro said.
Construction on the project began in 2013 and it was completed in early November at C$5m under budget, the utility said.
BC Hydro said it expects demand for electricity to increase significantly over the next 30 years in the Lower Nicola area, and the upgrades will help meet that demand.