Hydro One said it intends to significantly upgrade its infrastructure in the Ottawa region over the next five years, a plan that includes working with Hydro Ottawa to double the amount of available power in south Nepean.
The utility, which provides electricity to almost 1.4 million customers across Ontario, said it expects the suite of upgrades announced on Wednesday to cost almost $100 million over that five-year period.
Jason Fitzsimmons, Hydro One’s chief corporate affairs and customer care officer, told reporters during a media availability in Ottawa on Wednesday that much of Hydro One’s system in the Ottawa region was built in the 1950s. While some of the upgrades will focus on replacing equipment that’s reached the end of its life cycle, others are intended to bolster infrastructure in anticipation of growth in the city’s west and southwest areas.
The upgrades that Hydro One plans to begin in 2019 include:
- a joint project with Hydro Ottawa to upgrade a transmission line in south Nepean,
- line upgrades between the Hawthorne and Merivale transmission stations “to support growth west of Ottawa” and
- removing and trimming trees along five transmission corridors “to reduce power outages and keep the public safe.”
Fitzsimmons confirmed that the utility’s $100-million investment is separate from and does not include the expensive repairs the utility had to make to the Merivale station’s transformer, poles and towers after an EF-2 tornado tore through Nepean on Sept. 21, 2018.
The Merivale station, one of two supply points where Ottawa’s electricity network connects to the provincial grid, was left “completely destroyed” by the tornado, Fitzsimmons said on Wednesday. The wreckage at the station was responsible for many of the 251 power outages across the city that chaotic Friday.
The Hydro One official confirmed that the Merivale station is now in “great working order” after its 12-week, $10-million restoration, a figure that Global News first reported in January.
Fitzsimmons told reporters that events like September’s devastating tornadoes are reminders that it’s important to maintain Hydro One’s “critical” infrastructure, said.
Asked whether any of the forthcoming upgrades will help better protect the transmission station against similar windstorms, Fitzsimmons said natural disasters are “difficult to predict,” describing September’s tornado as a “force majeure.”
He suggested that having skilled hydro crews is just as important as “any piece of key equipment.”
“The important thing is our crews have the expertise to respond to storms and unusual events and weather when damage is caused, and they are fantastic at what they do,” Fitzsimmons said. “They’re world-renowned. There’s many times when our crews are actually called to support in the U.S. and other areas.”