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The new power lines near Airdrie

3 September 2009 1,367 views No Comment

Alberta’s energy minister announced a few weeks ago that he’s given the go-ahead for two power companies to apply for approval to construct and operate new transmission lines in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.

The power lines will augment and relieve pressure on the six existing lines in the corridor that are currently operating at or near capacity because of Alberta’s explosive growth over the last few years.

The new lines could pass somewhere near Airdrie and are set to be built by ATCO Electric and Calgary based AltaLink LP, who will now begin consultation and planning for the project.

The construction of new power lines is generally met with opposition from a number of organizations and landowners concerned with a variety of issues, mainly environmental or potential associated health risks.

“It’s a long process and it’s a process that includes a lot of technical research and environmental research and it’s a process that certainly includes consultation with landowners,” said Scott Schreiner, manager of external communications for AltaLink LP. “There’s no way that it’s going to come right through Airdrie, I can be clear on that.”

Schreiner said the planning process is still in its infancy and once details are sorted out, consultation will begin between those who may be impacted by or oppose the new power lines.

“That [process] is going to include one-on-one meetings with individuals, open houses, mail outs and advertising so people can understand more of the project,” Schreiner said. “It’ll include information centres that’ll be based in various communities that will be near affected areas so that folks that have the potential to be impacted are going to have the opportunity to learn more about it. And just as importantly, they’ll provide us the information that we need to know to make the best decisions.”

Although the new lines are being built in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, Schreiner said all Albertans would be impacted by the upgrade by improved electricity distribution.

The lines will reinforce the current system that hasn’t been updated for close to 30-years and will better link Albertans to the wide variety of generation sources available in the province, Schreiner continued.

Energy minister Mel Knight said the longer the province waits to update the system, the greater the cost and greater the risk to Albertans who may lose the electricity services they rely on and expect.

“These new transmission lines will provide the electricity highway to Alberta homes and industry that will facilitate greatly expanded wind-generated power, more low emission co-generation facilities, hydro and next generation clean coal plants,” said Knight. “They will also reduce the losses on existing lines that cost Alberta consumers more than $220 million last year.”

The new lines, called High Voltage Direct Current lines, will be the first of their kind in Alberta and will provide a different technology for moving power across the province, Schreiner said.

This includes the ability to scale the voltage as per demands.

“These lines will have the flexibility to move more power as it’s needed,” Schreiner said.

The new lines are said to be smaller than existing ones, too.

“These are beneficial to farmers who are going to have them in their field because they leave a smaller footprint and are less of an obstacle,” he said.

The progress now lies at the direction of the Alberta Electric System Operator who is responsible for the safe, reliable and economic planning and operation of the Alberta Interconnected Electric System (AIES) they say on their website.

The exact locations of the transmission lines are subject to the siting approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission following public hearings that address public and landowner concerns, the government said.

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