BC Hydro is looking at three options to bring more power into the North Thompson Valley, according to company spokesperson Jennifer Walker-Larsen.
A planning study into the options should be complete by late spring, she told a community-to-community forum held at the Sportsplex last Wednesday.
However, a new transmission line usually takes four to six years to build, she said.
The three options being looked at are:
1. A new 230 kV line from Hundred Mile House to Clearwater that would be approximately 100 km long.
2. A new 85 km long 230 kV line from near Mica Dam over the mountains to Vavenby. This would require a new substation to covert the 500 kV power from Mica Dam to 230 kV.
3. A second 138 kV line from Brocklehurst to Vavenby (preliminary analysis indicates this alternative is the least technically preferred).
Presently a single-circuit radial 138 kV transmission line serves the Valley, said Walker-Larsen. The line is 347 km long and runs from Brocklehurst to the Trans Mountain pumping station north of Valemount.
There are seven distribution substations, at Heffley, Barriere, Clearwater, Vavenby, Avola, Blue River, Valemount and McBride.
There are also eight pipeline substations and one sawmill substation.
According to Walker-Larsen, BC Hydro has more than enough capacity on the existing transmission line to serve current peak loads.
However, there is not sufficient capacity to serve potential new large customers (such as Yellowhead Mining’s proposed Harper Creek project near Vavenby).
The planning study will look at the three options and consider technical feasibility, cost, reliability, capacity, environment, property and First Nations issues.
Once BC Hydro identifies the preferred alternative, it will report its decision and then seek budget approvals. The Crown corporation will also need to get regulatory approvals, including the BC Utilities Commission and/or environmental assessment, if required.
Wells Gray Country (Area A) director Tim Pennell was concerned about the possible four to six year timetable for the project.
The BC Hydro spokesperson said how much time would be needed would be clearer once the scope of the project is known.
Simpcw band councilor Fred Fortier observed that there have been no major transmission line extensions in B.C. for years, except where mining companies were involved.
“There are other options regarding ownership of the line. Simpcw are having discussions with Hydro,” said Fortier.
“There are some glitches that Hydro is putting out that we think are not beneficial to the Valley,” he added.
Electrical power has been a major issue in the North Thompson and Robson valleys for years. The wildfires of 2003 amply demonstrated the energy security shortfalls of having a single transmission line. Correcting the problem was one of the major priorities identified during a recent workshop held on the Barriere to Valemount economic development corridor held recently in Valemount.