Transmission upgrade nears completion in B.C.’s Columbia Valley

Construction is nearing completion 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.

Work on the Columbia Valley Transmission Project is “on schedule and should be online in October 2012,” Christina Benty, mayor of the upper Columbia Valley town of Golden, B.C., told TransmissionHub July 11.

The project consists of a new 112-km (69.6-mile) 230-kV transmission line and a new 3-km (1.9-mile) 69-kV line, the new Kicking Horse substation, and expansion of the Invermere, Golden, and Cranbrook substations.

The estimated cost is between CAN $132m and CAN$209m (US$129.4m and US$204.9m), according to TransmissionHub data.

The new 230-kV line will largely parallel the existing 69-kV line that extends from town of Invermere to the town of Golden, 119 km (73 miles) to the north. The existing line is currently the region’s only source of power.

Benty told TransmissionHub in October 2011 that the town had been asking for a new line, and better reliability, for nine years. Now, she said, the community is looking forward to the enhanced capacity and reliability the new transmission line will bring.

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

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.

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.

Benty 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,” she said.

Construction of the Kicking Horse substation and 69-kV line west of the Columbia River has been completed, according to BC Hydro’s project web site. Construction of the 230-kV line from Kicking Horse to the Invermere substation is scheduled to be completed in August, as are the expansions and modifications of the existing Golden, Invermere, and Cranbrook substations. The line is expected to be energized in October.