Transmission reinforcement projects going ahead

Plan to feel dwarfed by quite a few new electrical giants in the region.

Plan to feel dwarfed by quite a few new electrical giants in the region.

The Alberta Utilities Commission approved six of AltaLink’s seven transmission reinforcement projects for Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Didsbury, Innisfail, and Ponoka on Tuesday evening after a lengthy process involving numerous public hearings earlier this year.

This means $322 million worth of electricity transmission upgrades are set to begin, with the earliest construction starting in September and continuing to the summer of 2016.

The company says new substations and lines are needed to combat existing transmission system constraints, increasing overloading and low-voltage occurrences and accommodate future load growth.

Three of the six components involve replacing existing transmission lines in current rights-of-ways, including through the Pines neighbourhood in Red Deer.

The existing north-south H-frame transmission line (known as 80L) will be replaced by a monopole transmission line and a 700 metre section of the line built underground through the Riverlands area in the city. The incremental costs associated with this buried line will be paid for by the City of Red Deer.

The other existing east-west transmission line (755L) between Red Deer, Piper Creek and Joffre substations will be rebuilt using a combination of H-frame structures and monopole structures generally within the existing right-of-way.

“It’s been a long process. We’ve been working with AltaLink for probably over two years on this,” said Paul Goranson, acting city manager at the City of Red Deer. “It is going to have an impact on the community regardless; where they’re crossing roads and trail closures and those kinds of things.”

The city was in favour of the underground line through Riverlands to facilitate redevelopment in that area so they are pleased the AUC approved that component, said Goranson.

Others called for AltaLink to bury the line in the Railyards area as well but that option was not approved.

The City also submitted its preference to the commission of the proposed alternate route in the Pines, travelling around the neighbourhood to the east and rejoining the preferred route along the existing right-of-way up an escarpment. Residents in the area were largely in favour of this alternate route as well as it put homes at a greater distance from the power lines, which they said would cut down on noise, interference and electromagnetic fields.

The commission determined that since the neighbourhood was originally built beside an existing transmission line, rebuilding a line along an existing right-of-way would create “little to no new impacts” and be about $2.1 million cheaper than the alternate route.

However the new towers will be about 44 to 69 per cent higher than the previous ones.

“It didn’t go totally the way that everyone hoped but at least we have a decision and we know it will be going ahead,” Goranson said.

All of AltaLink’s preferred routes were approved by the commission with the exception of the Hazelwood substation and the subsequent 14 km transmission line route in the Innisfail area. The commission approved the alternate location and route for these projects, worth about $51 million.

AltaLink requested approval to construct a new Hazelwood substation east of Innisfail at a preferred location in the northwest quarter of Section 7. It also proposed an alternate site in the southwest quarter of Section 31.

The Town of Innisfail and numerous landowners objected to the preferred substation site and line route, raising concerns related to urban development in the future, negative visual impacts, crop diseases and noise among others.

AUC went with the alternate options, agreeing with the town that its plans for residences in the impacted area, especially as set out in the Woodlands Area Structure Plan, needed to be considered.

“Certainly the town is happy with the outcome,” said Craig Teal, the director of planning and development at the town.

“There will always be a visual impact and yes there’s a possibility we will still have to work around its structures and alignment when doing our future planning but it will be a little bit easier for us because it largely cuts through a long term residential area many years out, skirts another long term residential area many years out so it will be just outside of that area so it will be less of a constraint. And then finally when it goes through the northeast corner of the town, it will be going through an industrial area which we just have more flexibility with that type of land use there.”

Ruth Lind, who is a third generation farmer southeast of Innisfail with her husband Harvey, said her family is extremely pleased with the AUC’s decision to go with the alternate substation site and line pathway.

“After three years, we’ll now be able to sleep at night without worrying about having a substation placed right next to our farm and we won’t have to worry about increased health concerns or listen to the noise, which was to be no more than 40 decibels or more as we’re told from friends,” Lind said . “We can now get back on track planning our future generations on our farm. We know not everyone will be happy with the AUC’s decision but we are.”

Other parts of the approved development include rebuilding transmission lines between Benalto and Sylvan Lake and between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake, a new Johnson substation in the Didsbury area, and a new Wolf Creek substation and transmission line in the Ponoka region.

The AUC did not approve a new 138-kilovolt transmission line in the Lacombe area as part of AltaLink’s Red Deer transmission development. It was dropped from the table earlier in the process because of uncertainty over Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.’s position on running the line parallel to its tracks.

“That segment has been adjourned until AltaLink submits a new application to the commission. It will have to be the subject of a separate proceeding and decision,” said Jim Law, AUC’s external relations director.

For more information on the decision, visit www.auc.ab.ca.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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