Hydro says timeline for combustion turbine 'under pressure'

An official with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says there have been delays in efforts to bring a new $120-million combustion turbine online.
This is a file photo of the 100-megawatt combustion turbine currently under construction at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's Holyrood property. (CBC)

An official with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says there have been delays in efforts to bring a new $120-million combustion turbine online.

The corporation had hoped to complete the turbine in December, but spokesperson Erin Squires confirmed Thursday that delays in the arrival of various components and inclement weather have hindered progress.

According to submissions to the Public Utilities Board, the 100-megawatt turbine is scheduled to be ready by Dec. 6.

"We want to be clear to customers and the public that the schedule continues to be under pressure and we are concerned as a result of some delays in equipment arrivals, but we have made good progress and we continue to target and push for December," she wrote in a statement to CBC News.

The Crown corporation has undertaken an aggressive plan this fall to ensure the electrical system is ready for the winter months, when demands on the system are are their peak.

No one wants a repeat of the rolling power outages that hit last January during a severe stretch of frigid winter weather.

The new turbine is being installed in Holyrood as a "peaking" plant for times when customer demand is very high.

Squires said the majority of the work is completed, but it will be early December before officials know for certain when the turbine will be available to generate power.

"The turbine project has an aggressive schedule to be available for generation in December. These projects can often take 18-24 months so we are operating with a fast-tracked and compressed schedule," she wrote.

"Our focus is on ensuring the turbine, which is a long-term asset, is safely constructed, commissioned properly and available to meet customer's needs throughout this winter and for years to come," she added.

The turbine is one element of a plan to provide additional generation.

The second element included the signing of new power contracts with industrial customers to provide additional generation, if required.

Hydro is also carrying out maintenance on critical and existing generation plants across the island to ensure they are available to meet customer needs this winter.

"The required maintenance is on track to be completed for the winter," Squires noted. 

Hydro is continually reporting its progress to the Public Utilities Board.

Back in January during what came to be known as DarkNL, gas turbines in Stephenville and Mount Pearl were broken — and a generator at Holyrood was running at a one-third capacity. 

Rolling blackouts were necessary as crews worked to gradually bring customers back on the grid.