If all goes according to plan, the biggest technical challenge facing the Muskrat Falls project could be overcome by early next year, and closely followed by the first delivery of electricity from Muskrat Falls to Earth. -New.
It was one of the key points made by Nalcor Energy CEO Stan Marshall during a broad discussion with reporters in St. John’s on Thursday as he provided an update on the controversial hydroelectric project.
Marshall said construction on the project is essentially complete, with efforts in 2020 to focus on the installation of the four turbines at the Muskrat power plant, and some critical electrical and mechanical work.
The goal is full market power by the end of next year.
The project is already billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule, is the subject of a costly and time-consuming public inquiry, and is also the focus of scrutiny by the Public Utilities Board as it explores ways to prevent electricity prices from doubling. at the time of the muskrat.
Now, the number one priority for Nalcor and its contractor, General Electric, is to develop the complex computer software needed to operate the two lines – known as the bipole – on the Labrador-Island link, which will provide power. Electricity from central Labrador to Soldiers’ Pond on the Avalon Peninsula.
GE “picks up the pace”
An earlier version of the software was used to operate a single line on the link last winter, allowing Nalcor to import power from the Upper Churchill plant in Newfoundland and save millions of dollars in fuel costs at the Holyrood plant.
Last spring, Nalcor closed the link so GE could focus on its software difficulties. And last week, Marshall made a special visit to GE’s facilities in England and left feeling a little more positive about the challenge.
“They are picking up the pace. They have a lot of resources. We are now definitely their number one priority. So I was happy, happy that things were going well,” he said.
The CEO expects a new version of the software to be available by the end of this year and ready for testing in January. But like any new software, Marshall said it could take a few years to fix all the bugs.
“I would say that in a few years you will have – should have – a fairly reliable system. “
The timing could be fortuitous, since the arrival of new software could coincide with another historic milestone: the first power in Muskrat.
Marshall said Turbine No.1, capable of producing 206 megawatts of electricity, could be powered up in late November and be ready to provide electricity in early 2020.
If the stars align, it’s conceivable that the energy of the Muskrat and the High Churchill could be piped to Newfoundland this winter, but Marshall urged caution, saying there are no guarantees.
“There are risks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marshall is sticking to the $ 12.7 billion price tag for construction and interest during construction for Muskrat.
That has not changed for more than two years, despite serious setbacks such as the withdrawal of a key contractor, Astaldi Canada, and delays like those suffered by GE.
Marshall said he was unable to give “absolute assurance” that the cost would not increase, but added: “All I know is that this is the best estimate that I have at the moment. “
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