Werner's Blog — Opinion, Analysis, Commentary
More power to the Lower Mainland

On a recent visit to Harrison Hot Springs, where you can enjoy British Columbia's geothermal heat potential in delilghtful hot pools, a Sunday morning hike took my family to Hicks Lake in Sasquatch Park. It did not take long to notice the new construction of powerlines on the far side of the lake (pictured below). BC Hydro is bringing more power to the Lower Mainland as population is growing.

Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission Line near Sasquatch Park

BC Hydro's Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission Project consists of a new 247 kilometre transmission line from the Nicola substation near Merritt, by way of a new capacitor station near Agassiz, to the Meridian substation near Coquitlam.

BC Hydro Map of ILM Transmission Line

The route of the new transmission line follows an existing right of way and a 500 kilovolt line that was built four decades ago. The map on the left shows that the new line runs first in parallel to the two existing 500 kV lines that connect to the Clayburn substation. However, the new line branches off near Harrison Hot Springs to run north of the Fraser River to double the capacity of the existing 500 kV line that brings power from the Kelly Lake substation. Most of the power transmitted on the new line will come from the Mica and Revelstoke dams. As there is another line connecting the Kelly Lake and Nicola substations, the new line can also carry electricity from Northern BC (Peace Canyon, G.M. Shrum).

There is still some discussion about bringing a sixth generation station to Revelstoke Dam, which currently generates about 15% of BC's electricity. The five generation units at Revelstoke Dam have a combined capacity of 2,480 Megawatts. A sixth unit would add another 500 Megawatts of capacity, possibly by 2021.

‘There is a strong case to be made for building another intertie with Alberta.’

It will be interesting to see how B.C. Hydro's transmission capacity will expand in the future. As I have argued in my January 2015 presentation at the 9th Annual BC Power Symposium to energy professionals and policy makers in BC, there is a strong case to be made for building another intertie with Alberta. It seems that this argument has not fallen on deaf ears. As was reported by Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun on February 11, B.C. in talks to sell electricity to Alberta, there is considerable interest in building a new powerline to Alberta in order to help Alberta phase out its coal-fired power plants. Ian Bailey reported in the Globe and Mail on March 3 that Christy Clark hopes [that the new] climate deal means support for [a new] Alberta hydro link. A new powerline to Alberta would be a gain for both provinces: B.C.'s clean electricity lowers Alberta's carbon footprint, while at the same time creating a new export market for B.C. clean electricity producers. And there is more scope for that. In addition to existing and proposed hydro projects, British Columbia is sitting on a wealth of yet-untapped geothermal energy.

I will return to BC's electricity trade with Alberta in a future blog. Greater cooperation between BC and Alberta will be in both provinces' interest. The political, administrative, and financial obstacles are formidable, but perhaps there is a window of opportunity for the two provincnial governments to strike a deal.

Posted on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 10:30 — #BC | #Energy
© 2024  Prof. Werner Antweiler, University of British Columbia.
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