North

N.W.T. Power Corp. has already paid $1.1M for MIA generators, minister says

The N.W.T. Power Corporation has paid a U.S. company one third of the bill for building five new generators and delivering them to Yellowknife, even though they're more than a year late on delivery.

Sebert says Virdi will cover any overages for $3M project, included rented generators at Jackfish plant

Louis Sebert, the minister in charge of the power corporation, has called Virdi Power Inc. a 'reputable firm' with experience handling large clients like the American military. (Richard Gleeson/CBC)

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation has paid a U.S. company one third of the $3-million bill for building five new generators and delivering them to Yellowknife, says the minister in charge of the corporation — even though the generators haven't been shipped yet and are more than a year late. 

On Thursday, while under questioning by Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne, Louis Sebert said California-based Virdi Power Inc. has been paid $1.1 million for its work.

"We're hoping that the generators" — which the power corporation says were due in November 2015 — "will arrive by the end of spring," he said.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne wants to know how much the delayed delivery of the generators is costing the power corporation. The utility has had to rent some generators for its back-up Jackish plant in the meantime. (CBC News )

Any extra costs beyond the $3-million total will be covered by Virdi, he added.

That includes what it's costing the power corporation to rent some modular generators "to ensure reliability" at the Jackfish Lake diesel backup plant in Yellowknife this winter. 

When Vanthuyne pressed Sebert for those numbers, the minister said he would have to get back to him.

'A red flag'?

Sebert also defended the power corporation's decision to choose Virdi over two much larger competitors, Finning and Wajax Power Systems.

Vanthuyne said Virdi's original cost estimate of $2.5 million came $1 million shy of its competitors.

"Would that have not been a red flag to the power corporation?" he asked.

Sebert said Virdi Power Inc is "a company very well known in the industry."

He said that Virdi's bid was the highest rated among all bidders, for the lowest price.

Quality controller 'always in a hurry'

Peter Virdi, the president of Virdi Power Inc., says the order is 95 per cent complete.

"'The lack of progress' is incorrect," he said, referring to a Feb. 20 inspection report filed to the power corporation by its quality consultant contractor.

"All the generators are done. All the switch gears are done. And they've been done for almost a year... It's just sitting in our shop, ready to be shoved into the painted enclosures."

Virdi said the consultant hired by the power corporation, Mike Wiltshire, has not accurately reported on the company's progress.  

He said 35 employees were working in the paint shop.

"I asked him to go with me to my paint shop, and he's always in a hurry, he's there for five minutes, so how would he know?"

The power corporation has refused to say how much it has paid Wiltshire, citing confidentiality. He visited Virdi's Ventura, Calif., plant 25 times.

'Closer to completion than indicated'

Virdi says the order would have been completed in January had it not been for unusually heavy rainfall in southern California in recent weeks.

"For example, we painted the modules and they sat outside and the rain came down very heavy, destroyed the paint job, so we had to wait for the rain to subside."

Though he declined to specify what components have arrived in Yellowknife, directing CBC News to the power corporation, Virdi said the scope of the project grew from the company's initial proposal, including the addition of a fifth generator.

"NTPC has spoken to both the vendor and our quality control contractor and is confident that the components are closer to completion than indicated in the report," said Pam Coulter, a spokesperson for the power corporation.

Coulter says about 10 per cent of the order has been delivered, with three of the generators expected to arrive "in the next couple of months" and the last two "delivered later this spring."

Clarifications

  • The story has been update to clarify that Virdi's bid was the highest rated.
    Mar 03, 2017 11:04 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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