Korea gets contract for part of P.E.I.'s new underwater power cable

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 24, 2016

While the two submarine cables that will connect P.E.I. with the mainland haven't actually been built yet, Kim Griffin, corporate spokeswoman with Maritime Electric, says this is exactly what the inside of each one of them will look like. The project involves about 34 kilometres of submarine cable with the cable itself measuring roughly 10 inches in diameter.

©THE GUARDIAN/Heather Taweel

LS Cable awarded a $54-million contract for portion of biggest infrastructure project since Confederation Bridge

A Korean company has been handed part of the task of carrying out perhaps the biggest infrastructure project in P.E.I. since Confederation Bridge was built.

LS Cable has been awarded a $54-million contract for a portion of the project that will see two huge, new electrical cables installed under the seabed of the Northumberland Strait.

The project, which was originally supposed to take place this summer, will now begin in October and should take two to three weeks to complete, weather permitting.

Maritime Electric has already handed over a $6-million down payment.

"We had to order that in advance and put a deposit down or we'd never meet the timeline to meet it at the end of this year,'' said Kim Griffin, corporate spokeswoman with the utility.

"It was certainly a risk, but we felt that it was really important.''

The environmental assessment part of the project is still ongoing. If there are any problems, Maritime Electric will simply put things on hold.

The project involves 34 kilometres of submarine cable. The cable itself is about 10 inches in diameter, enabling it to carry a significantly larger load, which will go from 200 megawatts of transfer capability to 560 with the four cables.

The install schedule was set following consultations with lobster fishermen. The fall schedule is least disruptive to the fishery.

The existing cables are nearly 40 years old and aren't buried very deeply in the strait. Those cables are also filled with a type of oil that has leaked in the past. The new ones do not have oil and are filled instead with a type of plastic.

The project, which is cost-shared between the federal and provincial government, is estimated to cost between $120 million and $140 million. The previous federal government committed $50 million.

There are a number of marine biologists employed, as well as engineers, survey companies and people who are helping design the cable, mapping the route and handling changes that will need to be done to the utility's substation in Borden-Carleton.

"For us, it's a pretty significant amount of work. There are people working on this full-time, year-round to try and make it happen.''

Griffin said the contract was awarded to a Korean company because there are no companies in North America able to make the cable.

New scanning technology has identified a possible river bed with a soft structure that will allow the two new cables to be well buried this time around.

Electricity from the new cables should be flowing by November or December.

Consumer electricity rates likely won't go down but should be lower than without the new cables.