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Crews connect 170-km cable linking Nova Scotia, Newfoundland power grids

The cable was designed to carry electricity from Labrador's Muskrat Falls hydro project, but work on the dam is more than two years behind schedule


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A Norwegian ship began laying the weighty 170-kilometre cable last month. PHOTO: Emera

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—North America’s longest subsea electricity cable has been connected between the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Halifax-based Emera Inc. confirmed May 16.

The 170-kilometre cable is a key part of the $1.6-billion Maritime Link project, which will enable Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown-owned Nalcor Energy to provide privately owned Nova Scotia Power Inc. with energy from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project under construction in Labrador.

A specialty Norwegian vessel began laying the cable last month. It’s the first of two to be pulled across the Cabot Strait between Cap Ray in southwestern Newfoundland and Point Aconi in Cape Breton.

The cable was anchored at Point Aconi on Sunday by Nexans SA of France, the subsea contractor working for Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, a subsidiary of Emera.

“With the first of two cables between the two provinces installed and anchored, the Maritime Link interconnection is now a reality for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador,” Rick Janega, president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, said in a statement.

“We’ll soon be able to transmit electricity directly between the provinces for the first time, allowing improved reliability, carbon reduction and increased renewable energy utilization.”

The link will help Nova Scotia meet federal regulations requiring a 50 per cent reduction in coal emissions by 2030 and provincial regulations requiring 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020. Nova Scotia Power customers will pay most of the bill for the project.

Installation of the second cable is expected to begin next month, and Emera has said it plans to have electricity flowing between the two provinces before the end of the year.

The two cables, each the width of a two-litre pop bottle, can carry 250 megawatts of high voltage direct current.

Together, they weigh about 11,000 tonnes, which is more than the Eiffel Tower. Their copper conductors are protected by 13 layers of various types of armour, insulation, fabric tape and a lead-alloy sheath. They will rest on the ocean floor at depths up to 470 metres.

While the Maritime Link project remains on time and on budget, Muskrat Falls is two years behind schedule and $4 billion over budget at $11.7 billion. It was supposed to start producing power later this year, but the new deadline is 2020 at the earliest.

Still, the Maritime Link won’t sit idle. Nova Scotia Power, another subsidiary of Emera, is expected to supply electricity to the island of Newfoundland to enable the province to shut down its oil-fired Holyrood generating station near St. John’s.


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