BC Hydro to upgrade Vancouver system

BC Hydro began construction in November 2010 on a $200-million transmission system for Vancouver’s central neighborhood, making its first significant investment in the city’s power grid in 30 years. The project includes boring a tunnel under False Creek and building a new substation in Mount Pleasant.

The owner’s geotechnical consultant, Golder Associates, recommended using a horizontal drilling machine instead of a tunnel-boring machine to cut a new access tunnel through the glacial till and hard granite boulders at the bottom of Vancouver’s False Creek. The choice helped cut the original $16-million budget to $10 million.

Marcel Reghelini, BC Hydro senior project manager, said the work is being done in the Mount Pleasant-King Edward area that is served through three aging substations, the Murrin, Sperling and Mainwaring, all of which are more than 50 years old.

The Murrin substation is now at capacity and in need of repair. The main lines feeding from it to Mainwaring have deteriorated to the point they are no longer being factored into the city’s electrical grid, Reghelini said. The plan is to decrease Murrin’s role from being a main substation to a neighborhood utility once the new system is in place.

The new transmission line, which received approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission in June, will have the capacity to power an estimated 30,000 homes.

Although the line will be finished by July, Reghelini said it will take until late 2012 or early 2013 to finish installing equipment and commissioning the new substation.

The Vancouver upgrade is part of a broader plan by BC Hydro to reinvest in British Columbia’s overall transmission and distribution systems. More substations and transmission lines are on the way.

The upgrade, in turn, will require continued consultation with a public concerned as much about the impact of transmission lines on their neighborhoods as they are about getting cheap electric power.

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