Alberta’s Heartland transmission line energized

The 41-mile Heartland transmission line linking south Edmonton, Alberta, to the province’s Heartland industrial area north of the city was completed and energized Dec. 28, making it the first project designated “critical transmission infrastructure” (CTI) by the Alberta government to enter service.

The project’s co-developer EPCOR called the completion of the project a significant upgrade to Alberta’s transmission infrastructure.

“There had been no upgrade to the transmission system in decades, so there was just no way that the existing transmission grid in the province could support either the population growth or the economic growth,” an EPCOR spokesperson told TransmissionHub Dec. 30.

Alberta has been experiencing rapid growth due in part to oil exploration and development activity.

“Alberta is basically Canada’s Texas,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve got the oil sands and so our province is growing tremendously. One estimate suggests the province is growing at a rate that is roughly equivalent to a city the size of Red Deer every two years. That’s incredible growth.”

Red Deer, a city between Edmonton and Calgary, had a population of approximately 100,000 in 2011 according to an independent survey conducted for the city.

Construction of the Heartland project began in January 2012 by EPCOR and co-developer AltaLink. Completion on Dec. 28 brought the project in slightly ahead of the end-of-year target date. The project was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) at C$610m, ‑10%/+20%. While final figures have yet to be compiled, the companies still expect to be within those parameters, the EPCOR spokesperson said.

Although the first CTI project to enter service, other smaller projects have also been completed recently to bolster and upgrade the region’s transmission system, the spokesperson said. In addition, several of the other CTI projects are under construction.

In 2009, the Alberta government, under then-Premier Ed Stelmach, designated the Heartland transmission project, the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) and the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL), the Fort McMurray East and Fort McMurray West transmission facilities, and a new 240-kV substation in southeast Calgary “critical transmission infrastructure.”

The EATL and the WATL, which will run between the Edmonton and Calgary regions, are under construction and will have a minimum capacity of 2,000 MW each.

The EATL is a 301-mile, 500-kV HVDC transmission line that will originate at the Heathfield converter station in the Redwater-Gibbons area northeast of Edmonton, and terminate at the Newell converter station in the Brooks area south of Calgary. The project includes the development of two new converter stations capable of 240-kV and 500-kV transmission. The project is still on schedule for an in-service date at the end of 2014.

Construction activities for the WATL began in early 2013 and are progressing smoothly.

“We are close to halfway through the construction process,” a spokesperson for project developer AltaLink told TransmissionHub. “We are on schedule and expect construction to be complete and the transmission line to be in-service in the spring of 2015.”

WATL is a 217-mile, 500-kV DC transmission line that originates at the Genesee area west of Edmonton, Alberta and terminates at the Langdon area east of Calgary. It includes the addition of two DC/AC converter stations. 

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) is in the midst of its competitive bid process to construct the Fort McMurray West transmission line. The project is the first to be put out to bid under the competitive process mandated by the Alberta government.

Fort McMurray West is a 310-mile, 500-kV A/C transmission line that will originate at the Genesee area west of Edmonton and terminate at Fort McMurray, Alberta. Construction on the project is expected to being in 2017 and be completed in 2019.

The Fort McMurray East transmission project comprises a 500-kV A/C transmission line connecting a new substation to be built in the Gibbons-Redwater region to a new substation to be built in the Thickwood Hills area, approximately 15 miles west of the Fort McMurray urban service area. The project will also be subject to the competitive bid process, which has not yet been commenced by the AESO.