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Atco’s $1.6-Billion Electric Transmission Line in Alberta Given Approval

by wireworld on 11/18/2012 - 05:48 pm

Tag: Projects

Atco Electric’s $1.6-billion transmission line through eastern Alberta  was approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission, marking a major step in the long-awaited expansion of the province’s electricity grid.   “We’re very happy, it’s been a lot of work,” said Sett Policicchio, Atco president of capital projects. 



The 500 km, 500 kilovolt, DC line could be completed in two years, with ground-clearing and soil testing along the route slated to start in the next few weeks. The steel towers won’t go up for some months, and at peak there will be about 1,000 people involved in construction, he said.



Albertas will start to pay for the new line in 2015, and it is expected to add $1.60 a month to utility bills, said Policicchio, adding that the company is currently updating the cost estimates for the line. 



The utilities commission is expected to announce its decision on the second and more contentious north-south power line, Altalink’s $1.4-billion project, by the middle of December.



The provincial government has been battling since 2007 to expand the north-south electric grid to meet what it calls a growing demand for power from bigger cities and new industries. Critics, however, have argued for years that construction two, 500 kv lines is a costly overbuild of the grid.



After a spy scandal at public hearings in 2007 on the west line, the province took the decision to the cabinet on the need for the two proposed lines. It designated both lines, Atco line, running east of Highway 2, and the Western Altalink, as necessary infrastructure under Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act. No public needs hearing was required.



The AUC decision this week approves Atco’s specific route which begins in the Gibbons area northeast of Edmonton, runs east of secondary Highway 855 and east of the popular Beaver Hill Lake bird area.



Policicchio said he was grateful to landowners who brought to the hearings this summer some helpful suggestions for alternative routes that would minimize the impact on their farmland and on the environment. About 175 kilometres of the 550-km route will run along routes suggested by landowners.



Initially, the expanded capacity in the line will provide backup for the current grid. It’s’ also possible in future the east line will take electricity from hydro power projects on the Slave and Athabasca rivers as Atco phases out old coal plants.



Meanwhile, Epcor’s controversial Heartland transmission line running through Strathcona County, is awaiting a decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal.



Area landowners opposed to the line, represented by lawyer Keith Wilson, argued the AUC did not consider evidence on the socio-economic impact of the proposed line to connect to Genesee power plant.