Nfld. & Labrador

Nalcor marks 'significant milestone' as power flows from Labrador to Newfoundland

Power is now flowing through transmission line from Churchill Falls in Labrador to Soldiers Pond, on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.

1,500-kilometre transmission project most complex, robust in province's history, says Stan Marshall

Nalcor Energy leaders outside Soldiers Pond celebrate the transmission of power from Labrador to Newfoundland. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

It might only be a small amount, but the power grid in Newfoundland is now receiving electricity from a source nearly 1,500 kilometres away.

Nalcor Energy confirmed Wednesday that 45 megawatts of power is flowing from the iconic Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador to the new converter and terminal station at Soldiers Pond, just outside St. John's.

This is where electricity from Churchill Falls arrives at the Soldiers Pond terminal and converter station outside St. John's. It's here where direct current power is converted to alternating current, and is then directed onto the provincial electricity grid.

The new transmission lines, which includes a subsea power cable beneath the Strait of Belle Isle, were energized in late May, marking the first time that electricity from Labrador has powered businesses and homes on the island.

"Today marks a significant milestone," said Nalcor president and CEO Stan Marshall.

"Our transmission line from Labrador has been brought to life."

The Muskrat Falls hydro generation facility in Labrador is 90 per cent complete.

Marshall and some of his top officials hosted a media tour of the Soldiers Pond site Wednesday, celebrating the major milestone in the ongoing construction of the costly and controversial Lower Churchill transmission project.

"We've reached an important step to enhance reliability, and create new opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Marshall said.

Stretching almost 1,500 kilometres across rugged terrain and along the sea floor, Nalcor said this is the most complex and robust transmission project in Newfoundland and Labrador's history.
An 1,100-kilometre power link connecting the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project to St. John's is being formally 'energized' Wednesday morning. (CBC)

Testing will continue over the coming months, peaking at more than 200 megawatts in the coming months, just in time for peak winter demand.

The power from Churchill Falls is being used to displace more expensive power from the oil-fired generating station at Holyrood.

Marshall estimates savings at $50,000 daily by importing 45 megawatts from Churchill Falls.

Over a two-year period, he said, the savings could hit $200 million, which will be used to mitigate power rates once the new Muskrat Falls generating station in Labrador reaches full power in 2020.
The Soldiers Pond terminal and converter station outside St. John's is a maze of steel towers and power lines. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

"We have made excellent progress,"  said John MacIsaac, Nalcor's executive vice-president of power supply. 

The Lower Churchill transmission project consists of three main parts: an alternating-current transmission line and infrastructure between Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls; the Labrador‐island transmission link, which spans over 1,100 kilometres from Muskrat Falls to Soldiers Pond; and high voltage direct current sites and electrical assets at
Muskrat Falls and Soldiers Pond.

Nalcor Energy president and CEO Stan Marshall turned 68 on Wednesday, the same day the Crown-owned energy corporation celebrates the energization of power transmission lines from Labrador to Newfoundland. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

It's the latest chapter in a major project that has caused deep division in the province, with a public inquiry established to study how Muskrat Falls's estimated $6.2-billion price tag at sanctioning in 2012 has more than doubled to $12.7 billion.

Electricity customers are also bracing for a doubling of their utility bills by 2022.

With files from the Canadian Press