New study looks at cost of burying high-voltage transmission line
Residents concerned about the high voltage Heartland Transmission Line are welcoming a new study indicating the cost of burying the line would not be unreasonable.
The Alberta Electrical System Operator, or AESO, has released a new study that suggests burying one stretch of the high voltage power line would not be financially prohibitive.
The report, prepared by U.K. firm Cable Consulting International Ltd., looks at the technical feasibility of partially burying the 500-kilovolt line along the East Transportation Utility Corridor. The route, which runs along east Edmonton and the western outskirts of Sherwood Park, has been identified by Epcor and AltaLink as the preferred option.
The utility companies have been averse to burying the lines, saying the financial burden of such an endeavor would be too great.
But after reviewing the study, AESO acknowledges it is feasible to bury 20 kilometres of the transmission line, a section from Ellerslie Road to Baseline Road on the edge of Sherwood Park.
Neil Brausen, senior planning advisor for AESO, says putting that section underground could double or even triple the cost of the project but that the financial impact is still much less than originally projected.
The report points out it would not make financial sense to bury the entire 65-kilometre line.
"Obviously, as far as RETA is concerned, the more that is buried, the better, but avoiding even one school or home is a step in the right direction," said John Kristensen, vice-president technical of Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans, or RETA.
Concerned homeowners and RETA worry about the potential health risks of high voltage overhead lines. Some evidence collected by RETA suggests a link between high-voltage power lines and diseases like depression, Alzheimer's, birth defects, breast cancer and childhood leukemia.
Residents have also expressed concerns about declining property values once the 60-metre high towers are built.
RETA points to the study as further proof its request to have the lines put underground is not unreasonable.
"Based on our preliminary review of the AESO study, we're delighted that they have confirmed what we had been told by experts over a year ago – undergrounding is technically feasible, reliable and does not cost much more than an overhead line," said Bruce Johnson, president of RETA.
The study also reviewed the possibility of increasing the voltage of the line in stages, starting with a 3,000 megawatt line and building the rest in 2027. According to cost projections by RETA, the cost of the lower capacity line would be approximately 30 cents per Albertan household per month.
The study shows it would take about 28 months longer to build the underground line, compared to an overhead project.