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‘DarkNL’ could repeat across region

['<p>Progress on the HVdc transmission line (the Labrador-Island Transmission Link).</p>']
Workers install a tower during construction of the Labrador-Island Link in 2016. – File photo

Public Utilities Board orders biweekly reports showing how Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is preparing for long, cold winter

As concerns over the reliability of the Labrador-Island Link continue to simmer, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is working on ways to prevent mass power outages this winter.

The Labrador Island Link (LIL) is expected to bring in 110 megawatts of power from Labrador throughout the winter months. Originally, N.L. Hydro operated with a 7.5 per cent forced outage rate, but recently updated to a 30 per cent forced outage rate. The rates don’t necessarily mean it’s more likely an outage will occur this winter, but that N.L. Hydro will explore even more options to ensure reliable power.

Jennifer Williams, vice-president of production for N.L. Hydro, says the company is working on contingency plans, such as asking businesses with generating capabilities like Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to generate power for use in the general system, and reducing the voltage of electricity.

“There are other contingency plans available, that will only be used in extreme circumstances — such as running the Holyrood gas turbine and Holyrood diesels at loads higher than is typical, if conditions are right,” Williams said in a statement.

“For example, sometimes in cold conditions, generating units can produce more power.”

One of the main risks facing the Labrador Island Link is software used to manage the system.

General Electric is currently developing and testing new software for use over the winter, but the new software has yet to be proven reliable. A team from Nalcor and N.L. Hydro is working with General Electric in Stafford, England, to try to get the software up and running as soon as possible.

The existing software will be used once the Labrador Island Link is energized on Nov. 1, but it remains to be seen whether the new software will be installed during the winter or whether it will have to wait for better weather. Part of the concern is that changing the software mid-use could disrupt electricity supply for the island, potentially resulting in blackouts.

Once the Labrador Island Link comes into service, another risk develops: what happens to the other Atlantic provinces if there’s a problem with electricity supply in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Because of the interconnection of the provinces through the Maritime Link, if there’s a major trip in this province, it could cause blackouts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

If such a trip took place, N.L. Hydro says it would stop pulling power from the other provinces, bring the Labrador Island Link power load down from 110 megawatts to 50 megawatts, and effectively leave this province isolated and without backup power from neighbouring provinces.
“While power outages can and do happen (due to things like weather), Hydro is very focused on this winter and is developing contingency plans in the event power availability over the Labrador Island Link changes,” Williams stated.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a warm December, but a cold January.

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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