Nalcor lawyer questions Manitoba Hydro on report

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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System reliability part of morning Q&A at Muskrat Falls review hearing

System reliability was the focus this morning at the PUB’s public hearings on the proposed Muskrat Falls hydro project.

Counsel for Nalcor Energy, Thomas O’Reilly, questioned the panel of representatives for Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) about their review of the project. Particularly, he focused on their assessment of Nalcor’s look at system reliability and the likelihood of a failure along some 1,100 kilometres of proposed overhead transmission line.

The probabilities are expressed in numerical terms: “1 in 150,” versus “1 in 100” or “1 in 50.” 

The “1 in 150” builds are the strongest and least likely to fail, but also the most expensive.

Nalcor has previously stated it has found the province will get the most value for its construction dollar in a “1 in 50” line, with specific response plans for potentially problem areas.

Manitoba Hydro has recommended Nalcor consider beefing up the lines to a “1 in 150” level. 

“There are others in Canada building to the 1 in 150,” MHI’s Paul Wilson said.

O’Reilly cut in, asking if it was true anywhere in Canada was not building to that level.

“Apparently here in Newfoundland,” Wilson said, before noting Alberta is working to a “1 in 100” level.

MHI’s Allen Snyder, a co-author on the MHI report, said the Muskrat Falls development plans a 230 kilovolt line, with sections running over remote areas where there is no historical data for power lines and no alternate supply. 

Snyder called it a “backbone system” for the province and “therefore, it is our recommendation it should follow best utility practices.”

The area he references with no data is the section of line to be run over the Long Range Mountains on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. It will be a new transmission route for island power. 

On Wednesday, questions had been raised with Nalcor about what the potential cost of beefing up that section of line would be.

Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett informed the PUB the area of line is already designed to be stronger, more resistant to failure, than other areas of line and Nalcor is spending more than double the price for that additional strength in those areas.

He said upgrading the structural integrity of the lines a further 25 per cent would cost an additional $20 million to $25 million.

However, said Bennett, “certainly our energy restoration plan would be focused on the Long Range Mountains area.”

Follow the Twitter conversation on the review.

This article has been updated to correct factual errors.


Organizations: Manitoba Hydro

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland, Alberta Long Range Mountains Northern Peninsula

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Recent comments

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    February 17, 2012 - 10:11

    This makes absolutely no sense to me, You are going to build a state of the art hydro facility then attempt to deliver your product using the lowest standard transmission line. When you throw in our weather and terrain and distance to market it should be built of the highest standards to ensure guaranteed delivery. How many billions will it cost to upgrade this system a few years down the road when we are faced with outages? I guess we all know who will have to pay for that as well!

  • Watch Dog
    February 16, 2012 - 14:11

    Taking the cheapest cost route to keep the bill down sounds to me like a less reliable system. They are sidestepping reccommendations to build stronger. This doesn't sound as right to me anymore. Perhaps the opposition is right. Did the Government already have their minds made up?

    • Fred Penner
      February 16, 2012 - 15:45

      They are applying something called "engineering judgement" and an advanced knowledge of the power system, and the conditions in which it operates, in order to achieve the best possible result while keeping costs at a minimum. The power system will be reinforced in potential trouble areas to further safeguard reliabilty and safety. Manitoba Hydro does not know the system as would be interesting to watch the engineers compare notes. This would be a potentially more beneficial activity than watching the lawyers "in action".

  • Graham
    February 16, 2012 - 13:02

    Carefully crafted questions asked so as to provide the answers they want to get. Pure genius on behalf of Nalcor and its legal staff. Talk all around the real issues and never really deal with any of them.. Ed Martin for Premier he wpuld be a natural fit with the bunch we have elected in there now.

    • Newf
      February 16, 2012 - 14:11

      You are delusional

  • Let's Make A Deal
    February 16, 2012 - 11:19

    The muskRats are in the they say. And the show goes on.............

  • DJM
    February 16, 2012 - 11:06

    Wow! To build the transmission line to 1 in 150 standards, which is required in our terrain and weather conditions would cost an extra million/per kilometre at 1100 km is a cool 1.1 Billion! (Depends how u read it, illustrates how clear Nalcor is or isn't) How many more of these errant mistakes are included in nalcors budget forecasts? And the project hasn't even begun. What a joke If Nalcor and this goverment thinks it can fool the people of Newfondland and Labrador.

    • Abu Simbal
      February 16, 2012 - 11:42

      You appear to have a singular point of view....The numbers you quote in which Nalcor is attempting to fool the people of the province came from Nalcor - they are very forthcomming! Who is fooling who? Incidentially, the transmission system which is currently in place in the province was also designed by Nalcor....using their best judgements. I believe the lights are still on .... at least for some of us.