Power line cost questioned

The cost of building a high-voltage transmission line between the Edmonton and Calgary areas should be a main factor for determining whether AltaLink’s preferred or alternate route goes ahead, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

The cost of building a high-voltage transmission line between the Edmonton and Calgary areas should be a main factor for determining whether AltaLink’s preferred or alternate route goes ahead, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

Richard Secord of Edmonton appeared before the Alberta Utilities Commission hearing in Red Deer where he questioned AltaLink representatives about cost along various sections of the Western Alberta Transmission Line project.

AltaLink proposes to build a 500 kV (500,000 volts) line, connecting the Genesee area west of Edmonton to the Langdon area east of Calgary, within the next several years due to power demands of Alberta’s growing population.

Secord represents West to East Alternate Route Protestors (WEAP), a group of about 40 landowners within Lacombe and Ponoka counties who say they would be negatively affected by the alternate route.

Some of them have environmentally significant areas, said Secord.

This alternate route is mainly on the east side of Hwy 2 and doesn’t parallel a significant length of existing transmission lines. Secord said his group of landowners don’t have existing lines.

“One of the routing principles is to minimize length of lines and cost of lines,” said Secord during a break in proceedings. “In Alberta if you can build a line at less cost then that’s of interest to a great number of Albertans.”

This western line has an estimated construction price of $1.4 billion.

Several other transmission line projects are on tap for other parts of Alberta as well, Secord added.

Secord learned from questioning AltaLink officials that they will reduce the cost of tower structures, wherever they can, by ensuring they run along a straight line. They run a lot cheaper when run in a straight line versus trying to turn them at 90 degrees, Secord said.

“There’s some things they could do in the design to reduce costs even further, something my clients are interested in,” said Secord. “They could so do by angling some of the lines, rather than following right angles, those sorts of things.”

AltaLink reports the estimated cost of the preferred route is $1.42 billion. The alternate route is estimated at $1.47 billion.

AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said the alternate route is slightly longer because the route has to go farther east in order to skirt around Red Deer and then head south towards the Langdon area.

During the hearing, Darin Watson, vice president of Major Projects North for AltaLink, indicated they wouldn’t spend a dollar more than what was needed for the project.

SNC-Lavalin, which owns 100 per cent of AltaLink, was recently awarded the portion of the project contract for engineering and procurement as well as construction management of vendors (EPC). Schreiner said it’s Canada’s largest engineering firm and it has experience in building transmission lines.

“This is actually a small portion of the project,” said Schreiner, who estimated the EPC portion at 15 per cent.

“It will ensure we have a system that’s going to be reliable and will work right all the time. The (project) will be able to use their experience and their power as a vendor to get the lowest rates for Albertans as they go out into the market in the competitive bidding process.”

The labour and the materials make up 85 per cent of the project, he added. Some of the materials have been ordered, but no labour tenders have been awarded, Schreiner said.

The hearing continues today at the Holiday Inn on 67th Street.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com