North

More than a year late, N.W.T.'s power generators still being built in California

Three of five power generators that were supposed to be delivered to the N.W.T. more than a year-and-a-half ago are still in the shop in California, and the other two are waiting to be built, says an official with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

3 units expected soon, 2 more waiting to be built, power corporation official says

One of the first three units for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation are show during factory acceptance testing at the Virdi Power facility in Ventura, Calif. (Submitted by Scott Spencer)

Three of five power generators that were supposed to be delivered to the Northwest Territories more than a year-and-a-half ago are still in the shop in California, and the other two are waiting to be built, says an official with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

The corporation purchased the generators from California-based Virdi Power Inc. in June 2015. At the time, Peter Virdi, the firm's owner, said he could deliver the order within six months.

In March 2017, Virdi told CBC News the generators were nearing completion and a spokeswoman for the power corporation said three generators would be delivered "in the next couple of months" and the last two would be "delivered later this spring."  

Approximately seven months after that update, the units haven't been delivered, even though the government already paid out $1.1 million of the approximately $3-million bill.  

But three of the generators are undergoing testing and should be "on a truck on its way to Yellowknife within a few weeks," explained Scott Spencer, the power corporation's chief technical officer for asset management and engineering. 

"The first three modules are in the factory acceptance testing stage in the factory in California," Spencer said. "We're expecting they're going to be completing that testing fairly soon."

"The final two units, all of their components are at the manufacturing site and they'll start assembling those as soon as the first three units are shipped," he said.

Spencer was not able to say exactly when the units would arrive, beyond his estimate of a few weeks, citing the previous delays from Virdi Power.

The timeline of a few weeks is based on the power corporation's assessment of independent reviews of the work being done on-site, he said.  

Three generators the Northwest Territories Power Corporation purchased in 2015 are being tested at Virdi Power's Ventura, Calif. facility. (Submitted by Scott Spencer)
"We've been working with Virdi Power for some time now, and hard dates are very difficult for them to commit to," he said. "We're happy we have an amendment to the contract that [absolves] us of any additional costs while we're waiting for these units to arrive."

The generators are replacing equipment at the Jackfish power plant in Yellowknife. Rental units have been used while the power corporation waits for the generators.

Virdi Power has agreed to reimburse the government for all the costs associated with the delays, Spencer said. In March, Louis Sebert, the minister responsible for the power corporation, pegged those costs at $500,000. 

Despite the delays, Spencer says he believes the generators will arrive and will be high-quality once they arrive.

"We're much farther along than we were in the previous discussion this spring," he said. "We're confident we'll see something in the very near future."  

When CBC News contacted Peter Virdi at the company's office for comment on this story. He first directed all questions to the power corporation before disconnecting the phone call. Another attempt to reach him for comment was unsuccessful.

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