Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro plans big upgrade to grid in central Labrador

·2 min read

A big upgrade to the electrical system in central Labrador is coming at the end of this month, one that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says will be just the beginning.

The Happy Valley-Goose Bay terminal station currently has three transformers — one 50 mW and two 25 mW. Rick Kennedy, Hydro's senior manager in Labrador, said they are adding another 50-mW transformer to take the crunch off the system.

Kennedy said there has been an increased demand for power in Labrador for years and it’s been some time since the capacity was upgraded. Industries such as data centres have tried to set up in the region, but have been limited by available power.

“This is just the first step,” he said. “This is an expansion, of course, but I really do believe with the south coast highway more businesses will come. It’s only a matter of time before we’re looking at further expansion.”

Because the region has been at capacity, Hydro put a moratorium in 2018 on any projects requiring more than 200 kW. According to a Hydro spokesperson, that limit will stay in place for the foreseeable future, but the utility is going to start looking at the 50 projects that have come in over the last two years, 30 of which were data centres.

Kennedy said they’ve brought in what they’re calling a network additions policy, where customers requiring large amounts of power would have to pay the costs of required infrastructure upgrades upfront, to offer protection to ratepayers.

“If we tell them it costs X amount of money and they don’t mind paying that, then off we go,” he said. “It might discourage some, but it’s a protection in case the bottom falls out of an industry and they pack up and go.”

There will be a 12-hour outage in the area, including the gas turbine backup generator, to upgrade the system, running from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 30.

Kennedy said Hydro looked at all options, including if it was possible to do the work with no interruption in power, but the outage is required.

Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram