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Smith Creek Fire: Reliability of power to the Westside subject of request to B.C. Utilities Commission

The Smith Creek fire is now 200 hectares according to the BC Wildfire Management Branch. - Al Waters/Capital News
The Smith Creek fire is now 200 hectares according to the BC Wildfire Management Branch.
— image credit: Al Waters/Capital News

The single transmission line feeding West Kelowna has been a hot button issue for years, with politicians and bureaucrats concerned it would cause problems in just such an emergency. This story from our archives was published in January of 2008, after a discussion had already been underway for several years…

The B.C. Transmission Corporation is asking the B.C. Utilities Commission for approval to start looking at how to make the power system on the Westside more reliable.

“We know there is a problem,” said BCTC spokesman Chris Rathbone. “We want to study how we can fix that problem.”

The corporation, which is responsible for B.C. Hydro infrastructure, recently filed its 10-year capital plan with commission and is asking it to look at a $33.8 million system reconfiguration for Westside, to be in service by October 2013.

“This project is driven by reliability concerns associated with the single-circuit radial transmission system that presently supplies the Westbank area,” the corporation said in its submission.

The single power line leading into Westside is referred to as a radial transmission system, and Westside is the largest area in the B.C. Hydro coverage area serviced by this system.

“There’s no real backup,” said Rathbone.

Last fall, the problem with the system was highlighted when a lighting strike on the line leading into the region put Westside and Peachland—some 17,000 customers—in the dark for seven hours.

If approved by commission, BCTC will spend the next year studying ways to reconfigure Westside’s power system to improve its reliability.

“A second transmission supply, a fire retardant treatment of the existing circuit, or a new IPP (Independent Power Producer) in the area could significantly reduce this risk,” BCTC suggested in its submission.

BCTC says there are no current concerns about supply of power for Westside, saying the existing system is capable of supplying the Westside for at least the next 10 years, based on the present load forecast.

The utilities commission isn’t expected to deal with BCTC’s request until spring. If approved, BCTC plans to get community input on the options they come up with after they complete the study.

More on the power line concern today.

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