Labrador-Island transmission link wins key governmental approval

The federal government of Canada has granted environmental approval to the Labrador-Island transmission link, a key portion of a larger project that will result in new hydro generation and transmission that will link Muskrat Falls, Labrador and Soldiers Pond, Newfoundland, and eventually continue to Nova Scotia.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) issued its “decision of responsible authorities” Nov. 26 after the federal minister of the environment found that the transmission link would have “significant cumulative adverse environmental effects,” particularly on a herd of woodland caribou, a CEAA spokesperson told TransmissionHub Nov. 27.

In the decision, representatives of four national agencies jointly determined that the anticipated effects were justified under the circumstances, which included consideration of the mitigation plans for the effects on the herd and its habitat.

At 683.5 miles long, the Labrador-Island link is a 450-kV HVDC line that will carry 900 MW of electricity that will be generated by a new hydroelectric facility under construction at Muskrat Falls to Soldiers Pond, just east of the capital city of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Construction of the transmission link is expected to being early in 2014, with an in-service date of 2017 to coincide with the completion of the Muskrat Falls generation project, a spokesperson for Nalcor Energy, which is developing the generation project,  told TransmissionHub Nov. 27.

The link includes an 18.6-mile underwater line beneath the Strait of Belle Isle, for which Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board granted approval in July. Civil work on that portion of the project is already underway, the Nalcor spokesperson said.

The transmission link will also include converter stations at Gull Island, Labrador and Soldiers Pond, Newfoundland. Cost of the Labrador-Island transmission link is estimated at C$2.6bn, which will be shared between Nalcor and transmission link project co-developer Emera (TSX:EMA), 71% and 29%, respectively.

The link is part of a larger project known as the Lower Churchill project, which includes construction of the new Muskrat Falls generation facility, the 500 MW HVDC Maritime Transmission Link between Granite Canal, Newfoundland and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The second phase of the project will include construction of a 2,250 MW hydro generating facility at Gull Island, Labrador.

The Muskrat Falls portion of the project received environmental approval from the provincial and federal governments in March 2012, and began construction in early 2013, the Nalcor spokesperson said. Cost of that project is estimated at C$2.9bn. Muskrat Falls will be owned exclusively by Nalcor.

The larger project also includes an A/C transmission link between Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls in Labrador. To be owned exclusively by Nalcor, that project is estimated to cost C$700m.

The southernmost portion of the larger project is the 112-mile Maritime Transmission Link, which will be owned exclusively by Emera. The cost of that project, which began construction earlier this year, is estimated at $1.2bn, according to Emera’s project website.