BC Hydro completes transmission upgrade in province’s Columbia Valley

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

The Columbia Valley Transmission Project was energized on Oct. 23, providing additional capacity between the towns of Invermere and Field, B.C. According to the utility, the existing 69-kV line connecting the two towns was at capacity due to increased electricity demand in the area of Golden, B.C.

The mayor of the town of Golden, B.C., which is at the end of the new line, said the town had been asking for a new line, and better reliability, for nine years.

“Now, the issue of reliable power and capacity is off the table; it’s not an issue any more,” Christina Benty told TransmissionHub Nov. 30.

She added that the community is looking forward to the enhanced capacity and reliability the new transmission line will bring, especially with the onset of winter weather.

“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.

Benty expects the increased reliability the line will bring to facilitate more economic development in the town of 8,000. “We already have some potential industries that are looking in our area because of the increased capacity, and that’s fantastic,” 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 previously told TransmissionHub the topography made such a route infeasible.

Benty applauded BC Hydro for actively consulting with area residents and actively addressing their concerns.

“Some of the biggest issues were location of the line affecting recreational areas and the visual impacts,” Benty said. “They were very mindful of some of the visual impacts as well as some of the residential concerns around transmission lines close to homes.”

The project consists of three main components: construction of the new Kicking Horse substation near the town of Golden, construction of a new 112-km (69.6-mile) 230-kV transmission line to connect the Kicking Horse substation to the existing Invermere substation, and construction of a new 3-km (1.9-mile) 69-kV line to connect the Kicking Horse substation to the existing Golden substation.

The new 230-kV line largely parallels the existing 69-kV line that extends from Invermere to Golden, 119 km (73 miles) to the north. The project also included expansion of the Invermere, Golden, and Cranbrook substations.

Total project cost is still being tallied but is estimated to be C$114m (US$114.8m), which is under the utility’s original budget, Benty said.