Muskrat Falls: NL Hydro CEO is optimistic despite the recurring breakdowns

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Muskrat Falls: NL Hydro CEO Says Optimistic Despite Recurring Outages

Jennifer Williams is President and CEO of Hydro Newfoundland and Labrador, the Crown corporation responsible for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject.

If the Muskrat Fals hydroelectric megaproject suffers yet another setback, the head of Hydro Newfoundland and Labrador wants to be reassuring.

Despite the discovery of new problems disrupting the power lines connecting the Labrador plant to the island of Newfoundland, Jennifer Williams hopes that the project will finally cross the finish line by mid-April.

We are well aware of the impact on customers. These are problems that do not inspire confidence, she admits, at the microphone of Radio-Canada.

Muskrat Falls Generating Station has been running well for a year, but currently its power lines can only carry 475 megawatts of electricity.

The dam, whose construction began a decade ago, can produce 824 megawatts.

Muskrat Falls Dam on the Churchill River in Labrador in January.

A report submitted Thursday to the province's Utilities Board says Hydro fixed a software glitch that left 60,000 homes blacked out last November during high-voltage testing. However, the document also details new difficulties encountered in recent weeks.

Hydro discovered in early February a new software glitch disrupting the Labrador Island Link, or LIL, the 1,100 km network of power lines leading south. The problem seems to be related to the very cold temperatures recorded in the province in recent weeks.

In order to investigate the incident, the transmission must be suspended completely. But demand for electricity during the cold snap was so high that Hydro had no choice but to continue sending minimal power from Muskrat Falls to the island. Jennifer Williams says Hydro will finally be able to investigate the problem in the coming days.

According to the report, Hydro recently discovered another new software issue affecting the submarine cable in the Strait of Belle Isle when the LIL is carrying over 450 megawatts of electricity. General Electric, the firm that designed the software, has identified a technical bug and a new version of the program will be tested in the coming weeks.

The report adds that a long-standing problem with synchronous compensators, machines that regulate electrical voltage at the Soldier's Pond transmission station near Saint John, has still not been resolved. repaired.

After the failure in November, Hydro had planned to resume final testing of the transmission system towards the end of February. In light of the issues uncovered in recent weeks, Jennifer Williams now hopes to fix the system and perform testing in late March, early April.

If the trials are successful, the Muskrat Falls project would finally be complete. If they fail, the next attempt will have to wait until October or November. Hydro cannot carry out the high voltage tests during the summer because electricity demand is lower and the thermal power station at Holyrood is out of service.

We will not do tests if we are not confident about the result, says Jennifer Williams. I must point out that the lines are much more reliable today than two years ago. […] We have made progress and we will eventually have lines that will suffice for the needs of our system.

Every month of delay counts, representing millions in additional costs for a project whose bill already amounts to 13.4 billion dollars.

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