According to Clearwater councillor Shelley Sim, local politicians gave flashlights to representatives from BC Hydro during the recent UBCM convention in Vancouver.
Lack of reliable electrical power has been a complaint by residents and politicians from the North Thompson Valley for many years.
BC Hydro is working to alleviate that situation, according to spokesperson Jennifer Walker-Larsen.
One example of the Crown corporation’s efforts is a project to upgrade about eight km of distribution power-line in the Darfield area.
“Most of the distribution system outages in the Little Fort and Darfield areas last winter were caused on that section of line and its remote location made access for crews and equipment a challenge,” she said.
The most visible part of the project so far has been piles of 45-gallon drums stockpiled next to Highway 5 near Darfield.
The new section of line will require the installation of roughly 140 new poles along Highway 5, Walker-Larsen said.
The construction crews will be using the steel drums to line the freshly dug holes. This step prevents the holes from caving in and speeds up the pole installation.
“The drums have been professionally cleaned to remove any residue and the bottoms are removed to allow drainage,” she noted.
Clearing work along the new power-line right-of-way was conducted in late summer to avoid any disruption to nesting birds.
Work on the line began once vegetation clearing along the right-of-way was completed.
BC Hydro expects to complete the line relocation in the spring of 2014.
“The Darfield power-line project is one of many planned and completed projects BC Hydro has underway to improve reliability of electricity service in the area,” said the Crown corporation’s spokesperson.
“In addition to the Darfield line relocation project, BC Hydro regularly conducts various maintenance activities and other capital projects such as vegetation management, substation upgrades, routine inspections, switch replacements, circuit reconfigurations, metering upgrades, and pole and cross-arm replacements.”
Bone Creek not backup
While BC Hydro might be upgrading the power-lines to improve reliability, it won’t be looking at the various small scale hydro projects (such as Bone Creek) either in operation or proposed for the Valley as possible sources of backup power.
“The primary reason is that energy provided by run-of-river hydro projects (like solar projects and wind projects) is intermittent, not constant,” Walker-Larsen said. “While the river is flowing (or the sun shining or wind blowing) the projects produce electricity. When the sun is not shining, wind is not blowing and river is not flowing the projects do not produce electricity.”
In most cases, because intermittent independent power producers (IPPs) cannot provide a constant and predictable electricity supply, it rarely pays for the IPP to install the necessary equipment needed to service customers independently from BC Hydro’s system, she explained.
“Bone Creek, for example, can produce up to 18 megawatts during peak water flows in the spring but they produce no electricity during the winter freeze,” the BC Hydro spokesperson said.
Local politicians and others have pushed for a second power-line into the North Thompson and Robson valleys to provide more reliable power plus energy for large scale economic developments, such as the Harper Creek copper-gold-silver mine proposed by Yellowhead Mining for near Vavenby.
BC Hydro, on the other hand, has put planning for a second power-line on hold, pending better confirmation that the projects are going ahead.