It’s taken three years of work and almost $56 million but the Alberni Valley and the West Coast’s power is better than ever, according to BC Hydro project manager Charles Young.
BC Hydro upgraded their Great Central Lake and Long Beach substations to handle the power demands of the regions for the next 30-40 years.
“We’ve upgraded the existing substation at Great Central Lake and the substation near Ucluelet,” said Young.
“In doing so, we’ve multiplied the capacity of the existing substations.”
The two substations had been in service for approximately 60 years and were at capacity, said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
“Beginning in the spring of 2012, we initiated a consultation process with the Hupacasath First Nation and the Ucluelet First Nation and local government on some options on how we could upgrade the transmission system for reliable power,” Watson said.
Hupacasath chief councillor Stephen Tatoosh was happy with the way the project has gone.
“The Hupacasath Nation was involved in the planning stages. BC Hydro approached our nation and we’re happy that they recognized the Hupacasath core territory,” said Tatoosh.
“We know how important power is since we’re involved in the power industry ourselves with the China Creek micro-hydro project.”
Tatoosh was also glad that some of the jobs stayed local within the Hupacasath and the Alberni Valley.
“We managed to get our community members and some local contractors some jobs.”
According to Watson, while various options were considered, upgrading the existing stations was found to be the best and most cost-effective option, Watson added. The total cost came in under the budgeted $56 million. Approximately half was relocated per substation.
“It’s had good community support,” said Watson.
“These substations are kind of out of sight, out of mind… but they play a critical role in keeping the lights on.”
The substations serve about 3,900 customers, Watson added.
“The power comes by Dunsmuir substation about 20 kilometres north of Qualicum Beach at Nile Creek, come across to Port Alberni and then goes onto Great Central Lake and Long Beach. From there the transmission system turns into a distribution system, which is lower voltage, and so that goes to Ahousaht, Ucluelet, Tofino and Salmon Beach.”
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The demand on the substations is growing yearly, Watson said.
“We’re seeing load growth of about one to two per cent per year and over time that adds up, hence the need for this project.”
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District director John McNabb was on hand to take a look at the upgrades—ones that he feels like came on time, for once.
“The way that I look at it is that a lot of these things, because of our population base, get left to the very end and when they actually are in failure instead of proactively doing this,” said McNabb.
“I think it really is a neat thing to have this done before we get to that stage and have the capability to actually move forward with energy in the district.”