Alterra drops environmental review for 1,027-MW hydro project

The British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office said April 28 that it has granted Alterra Power Corp.‘s request to have the proposed Bute Inlet Hydroelectric Project withdrawn from the Environmental Assessment process.

The company sent an April 26 letter to the office requesting the withdrawal, without indicating whether or when it planned to re-apply.

The office had sent a Feb. 26 letter to the company saying: “I am writing to request an update on Alterra Power Corp.’s plan with respect to the environmental assessment (EA) of Bute Inlet Hydroelectric Project (Project), so that the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) can determine the appropriate next steps for this EA.

“In EAO’s experience, long delays between the time EA information requirements are established, and the time information is actually gathered and an EA proceeds, can result in a lower quality EA. Such delays also greatly increase the risk that a proponent may incur additional expense due to the need to redo out-of-date work, or collect additional information not initially required.

“The approved application terms of reference for the Project were approved on May 5, 2009, however to date EAO has not received an application from you. Section 24(3) of the Act allows for the Executive Director or the Minister to terminate an EA if, after being requested to provide information in an application or at any other time in the EA, the proponent does not provide the information within the prescribed period. A deadline of three years for response to information is set out under the Act in the Prescribed Time Limits Regulation.”

In a December 2008 filing in this case, the developer said the project would include three interconnected groups of run-of-river hydro facilities on tributaries to rivers that drain to Bute Inlet on British Columbia’s central coast. In total, the three groups would have 17 run-of-river facilities, generating a total nameplate capacity of 1,027 MW. Six facilities (Southgate Group) would be located in the Southgate River Drainage, three facilities (Orford Group) in the Orford River Drainage, and eight facilities (Homathko Group) in or near the Homathko River Drainage.

Each group of facilities would be connected to a proposed substation near the mouth of the Southgate River (referred to as the Pigeon Valley Collector Substation) through 216 kilometers of 230 kV collector transmission lines on new right of way. From the proposed substation located near the mouth of the Southgate River, electricity was to be transmitted 227 kilometers through a 500 kV trunk transmission line to the point of interconnection with the British Columbia Transmission Corp. (BCTC) grid, at the BCTC Malaspina substation near Earls Cove.

Said a March 15 annual financial statement from Alterra about this project: “The Bute Inlet development project consists of 17 run of river projects organized into three interconnected groups with an estimated potential average annual generation of 2.8 million MWh. There was limited spend on the project in 2015, however, the Company has maintained all existing permits and licenses and has now completed all hydrology studies. The Company may look to further development of the project in the future when market outlook improves.”

The EAO exchanged similar letters with Alterra about another long-dormant hydro project, with the EAO on April 28 agreeing to drop that review, as well.

The Europa Creek Project was to be comprised of two major components:

  • A 138-kV transmission line extending from either the existing 230-kV substation near Kemano or the existing 230-kV substation near Kitimat to this hydroelectric facility at Europa Creek; and
  • The 83-MW Europa Creek Hydroelectric Facility.

The hydroelectric facility would include a free overflow concrete weir at the outlet of Europa Lake. This weir would provide level control on the lake as well as providing adequate submergence of the intake works. The powerhouse was to house two 41.5-MW Pelton turbine generator units that will generate at a voltage of 13.8 kV. The voltage was to be stepped up at the new Europa Substation to 138 kV and the new 138 kV transmission line was to connect the Europa Powerhouse to the either a substation near Kemano or a substation near Kitimat.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.