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Island backups could include bigger Bay d’Espoir power plant

The Bay d’Espoir reservoir
The Bay d’Espoir reservoir

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is taking a closer look at the possibility of adding a power-producing unit to the Bay d’Espoir power plant.

While not near a decision yet, an addition could bring the total to eight units in what already is the island’s largest power producer (the oil-burning plant at Holyrood included).

The eighth unit would match the seventh, Hydro is suggesting, in a filing to the Public Utilities Board (PUB). It would add 154.4 megawatts of backup power to the system.

A bigger Bay d’Espoir was not considered as a reasonable alternative to the Muskrat Falls development, due to concerns of demand and reliability.

Hydro’s vice-president of production, Jennifer Williams, reiterated Monday the water system feeding the Bay d’Espoir plant cannot be counted on to consistently run an additional unit.

The extra unit would not be for long-term, reliable power, she said.

Hydro is looking at the possibility of adding a unit to run periodically, in cases of any temporary problem with the Labrador-Island Link.

In the case of emergencies, the backup hydroelectric unit at Bay d’Espoir would be brought online and act like the backup turbine at the Holyrood power plant was poised to, with short bursts of energy.

The additional unit at Bay d’Espoir is not officially in the plans. It is being floated before the PUB as an option for the future, included in a report about system reliability.

A feasibility study and detailed cost estimate are in progress.

The addition to the Bay d’Espoir plant would take about 3 ½ years to build and bring online, if considered appropriate, according to early estimates.

In the end, it may not be considered a reasonable addition.

“We basically have to look at all options for developing the reserve, or extra capacity. This would be one of them. So a gas turbine would be another,” Williams said, explaining the work around reliability, including determining exactly what is required on the island and when, is continuing.

“Depending on how much we have now, then we would determine with the Public Utilities Board and interveners if indeed we should have more. And if we should have more, we would go out and we would size how much more we would need,” she said.

Then, using cost estimates currently being developed, the Crown corporation would compare the cost of a Bay d’Espoir expansion with other possible options, including any power imports from the Maritime Link.

“It’s advancing and giving us more information to make the appropriate analysis,” Williams said.

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