Construction underway on BC Hydro line

BC Hydro has begun construction on its Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) transmission project, a new 500-kV line that will parallel an existing 500-kV line that the utility says is reaching capacity, particularly during peak winter demand months.

Work began in late March with tower foundations being poured at the eastern end of the line near the town of Merritt, a section BC Hydro officials describe as “largely ranch and range lands,” which means there is very little timber clearing required along the right of way (ROW).

Preparatory work is also being done at the western end of the line in Coquitlam, B.C., about 32 kilometers (20 miles) east of Vancouver. “In the middle [of the route] we’re still dealing with some pretty high snow levels,” Donna McGeachie, BC Hydro stakeholder relations manager told TransmissionHub on April 16.

The 250-km (155-mi) line will parallel an existing 500-kV line for the majority of the route and is mostly along existing ROW, according to BC Hydro.

“When the existing line was built in the ‘70s, they acquired sufficient right-of-way in anticipation of the need for another line in the future,” McGeachie said. “The people that have the right-of-way on their property…knew that a second line would be coming at some point.”

The utility did have to acquire a small portion of addition ROW where the new line will cross mountain peaks, which in some instances reach 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) above sea level. In these cases, “It’s just not possible to put a second line in the same location,” McGeachie said.

“B.C.’s population and economy are growing and so is our need for electricity,” BC Hydro said on its project website. “Over the next 20 years, the demand for electricity in B.C. is expected to grow by as much as 50% – the majority of it in the Lower Mainland.”

“The ILM Project will expand the capacity of the essential transmission system that brings power from generation resources in the north and southern interior of the province so that it can continue to deliver clean and reliable energy to customers in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island,” the project website continued.

BC Hydro officials expect to have the line completed and in service in January 2015.