Hydro ponders Alberni substation upgrade

West Coast electricity demand is prompting BC Hydro to consider replacing some of its infrastructure in Port Alberni and on Long Beach

Electricity demand on the West Coast is prompting BC Hydro to consider replacing some of its infrastructure in Port Alberni and on Long Beach, Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said.

Specifically, Hydro is examining its preferred option of modifying substations at Great Central Lake and at Long Beach to accommodate future power needs. The option is favoured because of its cost, environmental soundness and light footprint.

The modification would take the form of upgrading the existing sub-station at Great Central Lake and two transformers at Long Beach.

Work at both sites would require the purchase of adjacent properties—in the case of Great Central Lake, private property.

The work will cost between $50 million and $70 million to do, Watson said.

Construction is slated to start in fall 2013 and be completed by 2014.

Other options include upgrading the Great Central Lake station, adding a new Tofino substation and adding a new transmission line; running a new line from Port Alberni to Tofino; and running a line from Alberni to a new substation in Tofino.

Hydro’s present infrastructure is 50 years old, Watson said. It can’t absorb the new demand, which is increasing at a rate of one per cent per year.  The new system would have twice the capacity, Watson said.

The initiative would not require a permit from the BC Utilities Commission, nor would it trigger any environmental assessment. Hydro is set to commence consultation with the Hupacasath First Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses Great Central Lake.

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