Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Muskrat Falls: Hydro NL highlights progress despite new outages

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Muskrat Dam Falls, on the Churchill River, Labrador, last November.

  • Patrick Butler (View profile)Patrick Butler

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A new report on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador paints a rather optimistic picture, even if the capacity of the dam's distribution network is still limited.

According to the Crown corporation responsible for the project, in the last quarter of 2023, the amount of electricity delivered to Newfoundland tripled, compared to the same period in 2022.

Hydro Newfoundland and Labrador claims that this assessment has made it possible to reduce the amount of energy produced by the island's thermal power stations. In the four-page document (New window), she says that for the first time, between October 1 and December 31, Newfoundland consumers used more energy from Muskrat Falls than energy from oil-fired power plants.

However, the capacity of the Muskrat Falls transmission lines is still limited due to a bug affecting the submarine cables between Labrador and Newfoundland since December. The reliability of the 1,100 km of lines connecting the power station to eastern Newfoundland is still in question and Hydro N.L. must therefore keep polluting power plants open when Muskrat Falls is commissioned.

Eight breakdowns occurred on transmission lines in the last quarter. In its report to the Public Utilities Board, dated January 11, Hydro NL. underlines that the incidents had no impact on customers.

In all cases, the repairs allowing the return to service of the broken equipment occurred within 10 hours or less, according to the document. Some equipment will be replaced during the first quarter of 2024.

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Three of the eight outages affected the submarine cables in the strait of Belle-Isle, between Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. Pending the findings of an internal investigation, the cables only carry a maximum of 450 megawatts of electricity, limiting the capacity of the distribution network to 50%.

In the event of an emergency, Hydro NL. says the cables can carry up to 700 megawatts. It also indicates that despite the problems at Muskrat Falls, there are sufficient electricity reserves on the island to meet the needs of Newfoundland consumers.

The hydroelectric project cost $13.5 billion, about double the bill promised when the Newfoundland and Labrador government gave it the go-ahead in 2012.

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