AltaLink has picked a preferred route for a new power line and one vocal opponent predicts the fight will be on to stop it.
The transmission provider has chosen to run the 500-kilovolt line next to an existing single 240-kilovolt power line west of Hwy 2, roughly on a north-south line 10-km west of Rimbey. The 330-to-365-km line will connect the Genesee area southwest of Edmonton with Langdon, east of Calgary.
The western option will be listed as AltaLink’s first choice in an application expected to be filed with the Alberta Utilities Commission early next year. An alternate route that runs east of Red Deer will be presented as a second option. Details on the route were mailed to stakeholders this week.
The Alberta Utilities Commission is expected to hold a series of public hearings next summer before making a decision. If a decision is made before the end of the year, construction could start next winter. The line would be in operation in 2014.
AltaLink’s plans will be contentious.
Joe Anglin, a vocal critic of the plan to build the $1.1-billion line, as well as another $15.5 billion worth of proposed electricity upgrades, predicts AltaLink is in for a battle.
“This is an overbuild beyond reason,” he said. The transmission plans on the books would be like building a 32-lane highway from Edmonton to Calgary.
Alberta’s massive electricity transmission expansion plans amount to public tax dollars being used to subsidize a handful of companies so they can reap big profits, he said.
Ultimately, the cost of the power lines will be passed on to power users, including households, and especially industry, the province’s biggest electricity buyers, in the form of dramatically higher bills.
“It’s going to cost us a lot of jobs in this province,” Anglin said.
Greg Troitsky, who farms just a few kilometres west of Rimbey, will avoid having transmission towers planted on his land this time around if the preferred route is chosen.
He counts himself among those who wouldn’t oppose a line if a convincing case was made that it is needed. That hasn’t happened.
“If they could actually prove there is a need for this line, people would feel a whole lot different about it,” Troitsky said.
Many of those opposed to the project feel their democratic rights have been trampled in the haste to use public money to build a power line that isn’t needed unless the goal is to export power for profit.
Leigh Clarke, AltaLink’s senior vice-president of external engagement, knows there are some who will never be sold on the rationale for the line.
The line is needed, a fact that was determined during the last round of public hearings, said Clarke. The province has grown by a million people since the last major electrical infrastructure was built, and what is in place is on average nearly four decades old.
Clarke said the company learned some lessons from the last round of sometimes emotional hearings and embarked on a lengthy public consultation effort with open houses in dozens of communities and meetings with thousands of landowners over the past year.
“I believe that has helped to engage the public and helped to reduce the concerns,” he said.
The route chosen is different than the previous proposal, which would have put a new line along side a pair of 240-kilovolt lines that run through Central Alberta just a few kilometres east of the single line chosen this time. The new line will parallel existing power lines for about 220 km
Clarke said AltaLink looked at a broader area this time and decided the preferred route would have the least impact on property owners, the environment and agriculture operations. The preferred route passes within 150 metres of only 15 residences.
If the line is approved by the end of the year, construction could begin next winter and would continue for about two years. The line would not be energized until 2014.