BC Hydro considering options to bring more power to North Thompson Valley

BC Hydro is studying ways to upgrade transmission service to the province’s North Thompson Valley, which is located in eastern British Columbia, between the Wells Gray Provincial Park and Jasper National Park in Alberta.

“There is a potential for some large spot loads in the area and we don’t have enough capacity on the system to supply power needs of potential new, large industrial customers,” a  BC Hydro spokesperson told TransmissionHub on March 8.

At present, only a single-circuit radial 138-kV line serves the valley. The line is 347-km (216-mi) long and runs from Brocklehurst northwest of Kamloops, to a pumping station north of Valemount. That line currently has more than enough capacity to serve current peak loads, the spokesperson said.

BC Hydro is considering three options for adding transmission capacity in the area: a new 230-kV, 100 km (62 mi) line from Hundred Mile House on the west to Clearwater on the east, a new 230-kV, 85 km (53 mi) line from Mica Dam on Kinbasket Lake over the mountains to Vavenby, and a second 138-kV line from Brocklehurst to Vavenby.

Not everyone agrees the current single line is sufficient.

When a wildfire burned down about 15 km (9.3 mi) of transmission line in 2003, the resulting outage “showed how susceptible we are to power outages (because) there’s not another line coming in as far as” Valemount, the village’s mayor, Andru McCracken, told TransmissionHub on March 1. Another line “could have protected [us] against that outage. It would have made us a little more resilient,” he continued.

“Would I love for us to tie into some other grid to make us absolutely resilient? Sure,” McCracken said, but added, “we’re in an OK situation here.”

The areas with a greater need, he said, are the community of McBride and the regional districts, which are served by a distribution-level line extending from a substation in Valemount.

BC Hydro’s spokesperson confirmed the current study is considering only upgrades to the transmission system and does not extend to distribution-level service.

The utility’s planning study will look at the three options and consider technical feasibility, cost, reliability, capacity, environment, property and First Nations issues.

BC Hydro expects to complete the study by late spring, the spokesperson said. Though it generally takes between four and six years to build a new line, “ how much time would be needed will be clearer once the scope of the project is known,” the spokesperson said.