Transmission upgrade underway in B.C.’s Columbia Valley

Construction has begun on what BC Hydro calls the most significant investment it has made in British Columbia’s upper Columbia Valley’s electrical system in almost 50 years.

Currently, only a single 69-kV line extends from the town of Invermere to the town of Golden, 119 km (73 miles) to the north, and BC Hydro officials acknowledge it is not uncommon for the communities along that line to experience power outages.

The Columbia Valley Transmission Project will change that with the construction of a new 230-kV line, a new substation, and updates to existing equipment.

“We have been asking for a new line – and for reliable power – for at least the last nine years,” the mayor of Golden, Christina Benty, told TransmissionHub. Now, the community is “absolutely, incredibly thrilled” and looks forward to the many benefits reliable power will bring, including an end to blackouts and brownouts, she said.

“We don’t have natural gas as a source of heat so we rely heavily on hydro electricity, and if you’ve got a cold spell then a blackout, you’ve got a huge problem,” Benty said.

In addition, Benty expects increased reliability to facilitate more economic development in the town of 8,000. “You can’t try to attract new businesses if you don’t have reliable power,” she said.

The project Richt-of-way being cleared for 230kV lineconsists of a new 112-km (69.6 miles) 230-kV line from Invermere to Golden, which will parallel the existing 69kV line. In addition, the project includes a new substation outside Golden, 3-km (1.9 miles) of 69-kV line to connect the new substation to an existing substation, and expansion or modification of three existing substations. Estimated cost is between CAN$132m and $209m (US$130m – $206m), with a forecast in-service date of October 2012.

While some residents would have preferred a line that brought power directly from one of BC Hydro’s generating stations north or west of the area, a BC Hydro spokesperson said the topography made such a route infeasible.

Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft told TransmissionHub the new line from the south is “certainly better than the status quo and will relieve some concerns about power outages, and timeliness in getting (power) restored.”

In addition to increased capacity, the parallel path will also create redundancy and enhance reliability, particularly during the area’s winter snows, Taft said.

Kicking Horse Substation construction underwayBoth mayors applauded BC Hydro for actively consulting with area residents and really listening to their concerns. “They did an excellent job of coming into the community, they did good consultation, (including) considering viewscapes and recreational areas that they weren’t aware of,” Benty said.

Taft said many citizens in the Invermere area were concerned about the line crossing Toby Creek at an area sensitive for its indigenous mountain goat population. “Through the consultation process BC Hydro agreed to an alternate route, and that satisfied a lot of (our) concerns,” he said.

Several construction activities are currently underway. Clearing of rights-of-way, construction of the transmission lines and the new substation, and expansion and modifications of the existing Golden, Invermere, and Cranbrook substations will continue through August 2012.

PHOTOS COURTESY BC Hydro