AESO’s lipstick application isn’t helping matters

Regarding letter to the Editor: No capacity to retire power lines (Dec. 17): AESO vice-president of transmission Shan Bhattacharya’s recent letter providing reasons why an existing transmission line right of way cannot be upgraded to a higher capacity was quite informative but does raise more questions.

Regarding letter to the Editor: No capacity to retire power lines (Dec. 17):

AESO vice-president of transmission Shan Bhattacharya’s recent letter providing reasons why an existing transmission line right of way cannot be upgraded to a higher capacity was quite informative but does raise more questions.

Upon doing a bit of research, it would appear to me that this project is not so much a reinforcement as it is a complete change in philosophy, as regards electric power supply in the province.

The transmission grid, by definition, is a combination of lines that offer multiple paths from the point of generation to the end user.

I would define reinforcement as adding another link in that grid, compatible with existing voltages and switching equipment, preferably to and from areas that are poorly served at this point in time.

AESO themselves submitted in 2004 that the addition of a double circuit 240 kV path from Genesee to Beddington (via Benalto) would handle growth to 2015. This should provide a safety margin to the startup date of Enmax’s Shepard facility, at which point the lines in question become more of a backup.

There are a number of people, well versed in this field, who do not believe that even this is required, as an increasing number of heavy industrial users make the shift to onsite generation using natural gas turbine and dual phase generation.

The overview on the 500kV HVDC system of power transmission indicates that it is a marvel of technology that provides efficiencies over AC systems when the end user is more than 600 km away from the source of generation.

If we situate a massive hydroelectric project or nuclear plant in the northwest corner of the province, it would be an excellent method of bringing that power to market.

Rated at 2,000 megawatts, adding one nearly doubles the existing north/south capacity between Edmonton and Calgary. Adding a second, presumably for reliability, provides capacity that won’t be utilized before my children are drawing their pension.

Given these considerations, and the fact that the cost will be fronted by the consumers, the only people I can see making a business case for this project are the engineering and construction firms who win the contract to design the project, supply the material and erect the towers and lines.

If the role of AESO is to lay out the future of the electrical grid for the benefit of all Albertans, I would strongly recommend that the AESO tell their political masters that an overbuild of this magnitude is of benefit to a very select few.

I do not envy you your position, Shan, you are being asked to put lipstick on an animal that is not at all pretty.

Maurice Chalmers

Red Deer