POWER FOR THE PEOPLE
Cable ship for Maritime Link docks in Sydney.
A lengthy 170 kilometres of cable designed to exchange power between provinces and across an ocean is now spooling at a dock in Sydney harbour.
Over the next few weeks it will slowly be uncoiled across the Cabot Strait to complete North America’s longest subsea electricity connection, known as the Maritime Link.
The engineering feat is being performed by the crew of the Norwegian ship CS Nexans Skagerrak and is actually the second of two cables uncoiled in recent weeks.
“Really, all these operators work in tandem. They have to master the turntable as well as the pulling vessel, as well as the ship vessel,” said Rory Cashin, a project manager for Emera and member of the subsea cable installation team.
“Any mismatch at all could be disastrous and could cause delays. Thankfully we have a fantastic crew, fantastic operators and people with a lot of experience laying cables.”
So far a full 120 km of the four-inch wide cable has been spooled from a barge sitting adjacent to the Skagerrak at a rate of 10 metres per minute.
Another 50 km will slowly be inched onto the vessel to bring the total weight of the link to 5,500 tonnes.
Once loaded, the cable will travel out through a loading arm on the ship, through the back of the vessel and into the water. All the while it will be watched via remotely operated underwater vehicles.
While laying the first cable on the ocean floor, crews encountered and solved some uniquely Cape Breton problems.
Because the local spring has been quite cold, the cable has had to be heated to maintain a minimum temperature and a smooth unspooling process.
“It needs a minimum (5 C) temperature or else it will have to stop operations for a period of time, so we have been intensively pouring hot water and heating the cables just to get that temperature,” said Cashin.
“It’s a problem we are used to here in Atlantic Canada but it’s pretty bad when even the Norwegians are complaining about how cold it is for May.”
Despite the cold, he said the project is on schedule.
“It is certainly not easy. It
is highly technical stuff, all happening here in Atlantic Canada. I think we are up to the challenge and showing our true colours.”
Besides the two cables on the ocean floor, the Maritime Link involves the construction and operation of a new 500-megawatt high-voltage direct current line, as well as a high-voltage alternating current transmission line and associated infrastructure, between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
Rick Janega, a Sydney native who is president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, was on site when the Skagerrak first landed in Sydney to begin laying the first cable.
He was back on Friday to observe spooling of the second cable as many years of work on the link are getting
closer to conclusion.
“It’s a project that’s aimed at collaboration between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and trying to reduce carbon emissions and improve electrical interconnection between the provinces,” Janega said.
“It’s quite exciting for us to be at this stage where we now
have one cable in the water, the second ready to go. In the month of June it will be in the water and form the last of the two electrical lines connecting the province.”
Trials of the connection are set to begin in September and the two utilities will take possession of the link by the end of the year.
“The first thing we will do is go into a trial operation where the two utilities will understand how the interconnection between the two provinces actually works and the systems behave.”
The link project is on time and within its approved budget of $1.52-$1.8 billion, he said.
During peak construction phases, the project had been employing about 1,000 people. Today, those numbers fluctuate between 600-1,000, including about 275-300 people now stringing the conductor for the link at the Woodbine site outside of Sydney.
Rick Janega, president and CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, is shown with Rune Lander, an offshore manager on-board the CS Nexans Skagerrak. The Skagerrak is laying subsea cables for Emera.
The CS Nexans Skagerrak is shown docked in Sydney harbour. The ship is laying subsea cables for Emera.