Frequently Asked Questions

 
Electricity transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy from generators to consumers.  This is different than the local wiring between high-voltage substations and customers, which is typically referred to as electric power distribution. Transmission lines, when interconnected with each other, become transmission networks. These are typically referred to as "power grids".

 

Generation facilities

Most electricity is made by turbine blades rotating at speeds high enough to produce electricity in a generator.  The blades can be turned by water, steam or wind.

High-voltage switchyard

The electricity flows through metal conduction to a switchyard, where a transformer steps up voltage for transmission.

Transmission lines (OUR PROJECT)      

Transmission lines can efficiently carry high-voltage electricity over long distance to substations. 

Substations/Transformer Stations

At substations, electricity voltage is stepped down from a higher voltage to a lower voltage using a transformer so it can travel over smaller distribution lines to homes and businesses.

Distribution Lines

Distribution lines carry electricity from the substation to neighborhoods.

Transformers

An electric-pole transformer reduces the voltage to a level that can be used in homes.

Transmission lines conduct 69 kilovolts (kV) or more and deliver electric power over long distances from power plants to sub-stations.

Distribution lines conduct less than 69 kV and typically deliver electric power from substations to residential and commercial customers.

A substation consists of high voltage electrical equipment such as transformers, switchgear, and circuit breakers. The purpose of a substation is to "step down" high voltage electricity from the transmission system to lower voltage electricity in the distribution system so it can be easily supplied to homes and businesses in the area.

The proposed power line corridor was chosen based on the results of a detailed Corridor Routing Analysis.  Initially, several corridor options were identified originating in the Dryden and Ignace areas and terminating at Pickle Lake.  These corridor options were identified based on technical feasibility, cost, constructability, and environmental features.  A list of land use, environmental, technical, and cost and constructability evaluation criteria were then selected to evaluate and compare the options.  Based on these criteria, corridor options from the following three areas were compared:

1 - Dryden area to Pickle Lake;

2 - Ignace area to Pickle Lake; and

3 - Dryden area to Pickle Lake following Highway 516 and Highway 599. 

The best options from these three areas were then compared using the evaluation criteria to determine the proposed power line corridor.   

A fact sheet on the corridor routing analysis can be found HERE

 

For Phase 1 (New Transmission Line to Pickle Lake), two primary transmission structure configurations are proposed to be used: suspension and dead-end.  Suspension structures (straight and light angle) hold the conductor in the air, whereas dead-end structures (heavy angle, river crossing and termination point) support the conductor tension.  The typical poles for the suspension structures will either be wood, steel or composite poles.  The wood poles are proposed to be tangent H-frame structures with steel cross arms and cross braces.  The structure will be approximately 23 m high and cross arm width of approximately 14 m.  Consideration may be given to using steel or composite poles to reduce the risk of transmission line damage and outages resulting from forest fires. 

For Phase 2 (Connection of Remote Communities), the preliminary design is still underway and pole structures have not been chosen.

Substation structures and transmission lines may attract lightning; however, the shield wire (found along the top of the structures) provides protection to the system. Lightning that would hit the area will hit the line rather than a house or tree.

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) do not cause radio, TV or cell phone interference. Modern line design has eliminated problems that caused noise or interference in the past. While it does happen occasionally, it is typically on older lines or where a piece of equipment is not operating correctly. When a problem does occur, the companies have the equipment and trained personnel to address the issue as required

An electric transmission line right-of-way is a strip of land that used to construct, operate, maintain and repair  transmission line facilities. A transmission line usually is centered in the right-of-way. The width of a right-of-way for Phase 1 will be 40m. The right-of-way generally must be clear of tall-growing trees and structures that could interfere with a power line.

The transmission corridor for the project is approximately 2 km wide.  Most of the studies that will be conducted as part of the environmental assessment will focus on this area.  The corridor includes an approximately 40 m right of way for the transmission line and, to the extent possible, other required project components including  access roads, water crossings, and workforce camps.     

Transmission expansion to Pickle Lake has been identified within Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan as one of five priority projects to be completed.  The Ministry of Energy has also directed the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to develop a plan for remote community connections beyond Pickle Lake.  The project is being proposed under a two-phase planning and permitting process.  The project is needed to:

  • improve capacity and reliability to the region for existing and future customers;
  • enable the connection of remote First Nations to the north of Pickle Lake;
  • increase potential for economic development resulting in direct and indirect regional employment;
  • reduce reliance on diesel generators that will, in turn, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
  • enhance the potential for renewable energy projects in the region that will also result in a reduction of GHG emissions; and
  • reduce reliance on the current transmission line, which has been susceptible to a high incidence of outages due to weather and forest fires.

The Musselwhite mine is powered through a combination of grid transmission and diesel generation. It receives up to 19.5 MW of power from a private line coming north from Pickle Lake where the provincial grid stops. Pickle Lake is connected to the grid by a 115 kV  line that is over 70 years old, operates at capacity, and is susceptible to frequent and prolonged outages.  The mine currently supplements its power requirements with 2.5MW of diesel generation.

The new transmission line will provide additional capacity and improved reliability for all existing and potential customers in the Pickle Lake region In 2011, forest fires destroyed part of the transmission line to Pickle Lake and left some communities and industry without grid connection for up to 20 days.

The new transmission line will provide additional capacity and improved reliability for all existing and potential customers in the Pickle Lake region
 

 

Remote communities in Ontario are generally defined as those communities whose power systems are not connected to the main Ontario power grid.  These communities are primarily serviced by electrical generation from the combustion of diesel fuel (i.e., diesel generation).

Diesel generation in remote communities is in general the highest cost electricity generation resource currently supplying Ontario customers, typically costing 3 to 10 times more than the average cost of grid power.  These high supply costs occur for a number of reasons including the high cost of diesel fuel, which is compounded by the need to transport and store the fuel in the communities, as well the higher operating and capital costs of performing construction and maintenance work in these remote locations.  Rates for residential customers in remote communities are reduced through rate based and government subsidies.

In Ontario, Hydro One Remote Communities Inc. (HORCI) operates within fourteen remote communities that are not grid connected.  There are twelve First Nation owned and controlled Independent Power Authorities (IPAs) that operate within Ontario outside of the HORCI system.  

There are a number of remote First Nation communities with small renewable generation units to reduce the amount of diesel consumption, namely:

  • Kasabonika Lake First Nation (wind turbines)
  • Deer Lake First Nation (Shoulder Blade Falls GS)
  • Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (wind turbines ) 

 

Eabametoong (Fort Hope),  Keewaywin, Muskrat Dam,
Nibinamik (Summer Beaver),
North Spirit Lake,
Pikangikum (line under development), Poplar Hill, Wawakapewin, Wunnumin Lake, Marten Falls, and Peawanuck First Nations. 

Bearskin Lake, Deer Lake,
Kasabonika Lake, 
Kingfisher Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake),  Neskantaga (Lansdowne House), Sachigo Lake, Sandy Lake, 
Wapakeka,
Weagamow (North Caribou Lake), Webequie, Fort Severn, Whitesands, and Gull Bay First Nations.

Wataynikaneyap Power is currently planning to connect the following communities as part of Phase 2:

  • Kasabonika Lake First Nation;
  • Wapekeka First Nation;
  • Wunnumin Lake First Nation;
  • North Caribou Lake First Nation;
  • Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug;
  • Kingfisher Lake First Nation;
  • Wawakapewin First Nation;
  • Bearskin Lake First Nation;
  • Sachigo Lake First Nation; and
  • Muskrat Dam First Nation.
  • Deer Lake First Nation
  • Keewaywin First Nation
  • McDowell Lake First Nation
  • North Spirit Lake First Nation
  • Poplar Hill First Nation

If there is interest from other remote communities, Wataynikaneyap Power will work with these communities to explore the feasibility of connection.

 

 

While the initial capital cost of building transmission infrastructure is high, the long-term cost of grid delivered energy is much lower than remote diesel generation, where expensive diesel fuel is flown or trucked (via ice roads) to the communities. Diesel generation typically costs three to ten times more than the average cost of the provincial grid power. The Federal government and Ontario electricity ratepayers subsidize approximately 90% of diesel generation costs. 

PricewaterhouseCoopers (“PwC”) was engaged by Wataynikaneyap to complete an assessment of financing and funding options for the development of a transmission line to connect Wataynikaneyap’s remote First Nations communities (Phase 2). PWC estimates the current cost to supply electricity by diesel generation to Wataynikaneyap’s remote communities is approximately $36.3 million a year and growing.  PWC concluded that developing and operating a transmission line connecting these communities to the grid will result in a net present value of $657 million in savings over continued diesel generation during the period 2018-2057. In a separate analysis, the Ontario Power Authority also concluded grid connection would cost less than continued diesel generation over the long-term.
 

 

At this time, funding for the project has not been finalized, but will be based on the Transmission System Code and may include contributions from customers, the provincial/federal governments and the ratepayers of Ontario. Government/ratepayer contributions will likely be related to avoided costs of replacing the need for diesel generation in remote communities.  The Ontario Power Authority has determined that in the long-term, it would be more economic to connect remote communities to the grid, than to continue with remote diesel generation.

 

The development of a new transmission line will create enormous potential for future economic development, as well as potential for clean energy investments.  Extension of the grid line north will result in the positive spin-off effects for local communities and potentially lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs.  There shall also be the immediate opportunity for employment during both construction and operation of the line, although some skill sets will likely be required to access these jobs.

More information on employment opportunities will be posted as the project progresses.

 

For existing grid connected communities and customers, power capacity and reliability will be improved.  Customers along the new 230 kV transmission line will not be able to connect directly to the line without incurring significant costs to step down voltage.

For those communities connected as part of Phase 2, power capacity and reliability will be improved as they will become grid connected customers.

Some diesel generation will likely be maintained for emergency power generation in the event of outages or other operational needs.

The Ontario Waterpowe Association has identified over 275 MW of developable waterpower in proximity to the remote First Nations communities

Wataynikaneyap Power is focused on transmission development and has no plans to pursue the development of generation facilities.

Wataynikaneyap Power will complete an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the potential environmental effects of the project.  More information on the Phase 1 Environmental Assessment process for the project can be found on the "Environmental Assessment" page

Transmission lines are very quiet in good weather. You will hardly notice any sound they make during normal operation. During rain or heavy fog, you may hear a low level crackling or buzzing sound at the edge of the right-of-way. Even so, the noise is less than the sound of a light breeze.

• Health Canada monitors scientific research on EMFs and human health.  Health Canada's recent conclusion about EMF is that "there is no compelling scientific evidence that EMF in living and school environments, regardless of locations from power transmission lines, cause ill health such as cancer." [Health Canada comments on VITR Project Application, September 2006]

• The Canadian Federal-Provincial-Territorial Radiation Protection Committee similarly concluded in 2005 that "adverse health effects from exposure to power-frequency EMFs, at levels normally encountered in homes, schools and offices, have not been established." [FPTRPC Position Statement, January 2005]

• Similarly, the World Health Organization says that "current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields." [WHO website 2007]

Diesel generation is over three times the cost of transmission.  The OPA has estimated 30-60MW of power required in the Ring of Fire in the near term.  Transmission could result in more than $30 - $60 million in power cost savings per year. A 230 kV line to Pickle Lake would be the closest connection point for the Ring of Fire and given the proximity of the Ring of Fire to the Remote First Nations communities, there are synergies and cost sharing that can be achieved through coordinated infrastructure planning.

A Category C Individual EA is required for the project under Ontario Regulation (O.Reg.) 116/01 Electricity Projects to satisfy the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act because the project is:

  • Greater than 115 kV and less than 500 kV; and
  • Greater than 50 km in length.

Under the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a federal EA would be required for the project if the transmission line:

  • crosses through federal lands (e.g., First Nations Reserves);
  • crosses a wildlife area or migratory bird sanctuary; or
  • has a voltage of 345 kV or more that is 75 km or more in length on a new right of way.

Based on the proposed corridor routes, a federal EA is not anticipated for the project unless the preferred route passes through reserve lands 

Significant work was completed by Watay analyzing the HWY 599 corridor option.  It is important to note that the Highway 599 right of way cannot be utilized for a 230kV transmission line.  Additional challenges include:

  • Passing through Mishkeegogamang Reserve 63A
  • Passing through Mishkeegogamang Reserve 63B
  • Passing along Ojibway Nation of Saugeen Reserve
  • Passing near/through off-reserve settlements
  • Passing through 3 provincial parks
  • Greater potential impact on buildings, private land, tourist camps (hwy 599 built up areas)
  • Greater amount of water & infrastructure (road, rail, line) crossings
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