Labrador Is­land Link also be­hind sched­ule

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­[email protected]­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

I know I’m a voice in the wilder­ness here.

In fact, at this point, I some­times think I’m the only one who cares.

But prob­lems with the Muskrat Falls project don’t end in Labrador.

There’s another prob­lem, stretching right across the is­land, a prob­lem with its roots in the fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances of a ma­jor con­tract — and no, not Astaldi, the Ital­ian firm that was pulled from the Muskrat project.

No, this prob­lem is with GE Grid So­lu­tions, the firm that is sup­posed to be com­plet­ing the soft­ware needed to make the Labrador Is­land Link power line work.

(As I pointed out in an ear­lier col­umn, GE Grid So­lu­tions has been try­ing for over four years to make soft­ware for a Swedish power line sys­tem func­tion prop­erly.)

GE Grid So­lu­tions of­fi­cials have al­ready told the Muskrat Falls in­quiry that the power line will be ready when there’s power to trans­mit.

But con­sul­tants are warn­ing that, when the first power can be gen­er­ated at Muskrat Falls, the LIL may not be ready to trans­mit it.

Liberty Con­sult­ing is do­ing work on the LIL for the prov­ince’s Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board. The board is con­cerned be­cause New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro has built the LIL into its power sup­ply plans — and the PUB wanted a sec­ond opin­ion.

Liberty’s been do­ing reg­u­lar up­dates on the progress — or lack of progress — on the project, is­su­ing their sixth re­port on May 22. They point out that com­mis­sion­ing even one line out of the twin power lines on the LIL has taken far longer than it should: “Man­age­ment achieved ‘First Power’ on the LIL on June 11, 2018. Achiev­ing first power marked the start of dy­namic com­mis­sion­ing, and ini­ti­ated a list of tests of power trans­mis­sion from Muskrat Falls to Sol­diers Pond — tests seeking to demon­strate spec­i­fied per­for­mance prior to com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion. It typ­i­cally takes two months from First Power to the com­ple­tion of com­mis­sion­ing of a pole. At the time of writ­ing, dy­namic com­mis­sion­ing re­mained un­com­pleted.”

So, in­stead of two months, it’s taken 11 — and now, new plans at Nal­cor mean the com­mis­sion­ing likely won’t take place un­til the end of Novem­ber, mean­ing 17 months. The com­pany was go­ing to com­mis­sion one line first, de­scribed as mono­pole ser­vice, and then the sec­ond, called bipole op­er­a­tion. Now, Nal­cor hopes to com­mis­sion both at the same time.

The prob­lem? “Con­trol and pro­tec­tion soft­ware re­quired for op­er­a­tion, the pri­mary cause of de­lay to date, re­mains un­avail­able in a fi­nal form,” Liberty says. “We have found sur­pris­ing the large num­ber of soft­ware prob­lems ex­posed dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ing process. Such soft­ware should un­dergo rig­or­ous fac­tory test­ing prior to dis­patch to site.”

At this point, GE has hired two in­de­pen­dent third-party con­sul­tants; those con­sul­tants don’t seem to think GE will make the next dead­line, ei­ther. As Liberty says, “Pre­lim­i­nary in­for­ma­tion from man­age­ment and from GE’s In­de­pen­dent Third Party (ITP) con­sul­tants gives very low con­fi­dence GE will de­liver the bipole soft­ware by the re­quired Au­gust date.”

One of the in­de­pen­dent third par­ties said the GE plan has an “ag­gres­sive” sched­ule with no float to ad­dress de­lays. Sound fa­mil­iar?

Liberty says, “It also ap­pears that GE’s cur­rent fi­nan­cial trou­bles have re­sulted in high staff turnover rates, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to re­tain com­pe­tent per­son­nel. Man­age­ment re­ported that GE is at­tempt­ing to se­cure other third party sup­port to as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment process. This sit­u­a­tion will con­tinue to threaten its work on the LIL, as GE man­age­ment al­lo­cates lim­ited re­sources among mul­ti­ple clients who, like Nal­cor, will pres­sure them for de­lay-mit­i­gat­ing ef­forts.”

The bot­tom line? More de­lays. “We see sub­stan­tial risk that bipole com­mis­sion­ing will slip. Such slip­page would take com­mis­sion­ing well into the win­ter op­er­at­ing pe­riod, thus in­creas­ing the prob­a­bil­ity of sys­tem out­ages. Sub­stan­tial rea­son for con­cern also arises from man­age­ment’s state­ment that bipole soft­ware de­vel­op­ment will not be fully com­pleted un­til some test­ing, us­ing the ini­tial ver­sion of the soft­ware, at the site. We find this process un­usual, and be­lieve that it cre­ates a risk of ex­ten­sive de­lay.”

Liberty’s pretty blunt about it all: “With first power on pole 2 on the 30th Oc­to­ber, the bipole com­mis­sion­ing date of 22nd Novem­ber is not re­al­is­tic. Fur­ther­more, with the first gen­er­a­tor be­ing ready for op­er­a­tion on the 4th Septem­ber, two months of en­ergy pro­duc­tion will be lost.”

All juiced up and no place to go.

Wild. Just wild.

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