Hydro provides update on recent weather events and Muskrat Falls assets

This morning, our President and CEO, Jennifer Williams spoke with the media following our quarterly letter to the Public Utilities Board on the status of our newest assets. Ms. Williams also reflected on the significant weather event that resulted in system outages last weekend. Watch the video or read the statement below for the highlights and updates.

Full Statement

Hydro responded to ice damage, restoring power to customers in 16 communities across the province.

Last weekend, system outages affected 16 different communities. While much of the province saw extensive rainfall, parts of the island and Southern Labrador saw significant and fast accumulating amounts of freezing rain, a risk for utilities in Northern climates around the world.

In some areas, this caused damage to transmission and distribution lines, and combined with the messy ground cover, proved challenging for our crews to patrol and repair over several days.
The response required action from crews across the province both in the field and behind desks. Teams came together with expertise and professionalism to swiftly mobilize and safely restore power.

We know outages can be challenging for our customers, especially on a holiday weekend, so thank you for your patience as teams worked to bring the power back online. Many customers shared kind words and support for our crews and I know it was appreciated.

Labrador Island Link had a strong performance in 2023.

As we approach the first anniversary of the commissioning of the Labrador Island Link, it’s important that you hear about its successes, as well as the bumps you might be more likely to hear about. The Link had a strong performance in 2023. Our teams estimate that the Link was available 96% of the year. In 2023, the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generating Facility also exceeded the Canadian average for plant availability. In our recent report, you will also see that in the first quarter of 2024, the Muskrat Falls Plant was available 99.9% of the time.

Almost one full year since its full commissioning, the Labrador Island Link is still very much a new asset. We have seen some issues, which are expected and typical of any new assets in early operation. We have been prepared with other assets ready if needed.

Recent ice storm impacted towers in southern Labrador.

Further to the ice damage we saw on the west coast and in Labrador, we also saw some extreme ice on some towers along the Labrador Island Link in Southern Labrador. There were no power interruptions as a result.

These severe, fast accumulating ice conditions, three inches thick in places, damaged 11 towers on a section of the Labrador Island Link in Southern Labrador. There are 3223 towers on the LIL. The main parts of the towers were unaffected while the components damaged are associated with the connection of the electrode line to the tower at the uppermost part of the tower and a few tower peaks. Repairs are underway and expected to be completed in the coming week or so. The line will remain out of service while we finish the work safely.

Anecdotally, we hear that the freezing rain exposure in the area is changing from what would be expected in the past. While our assets were designed to withstand the climate based on the data available at the time of design, now, 15 years later, the climate is changing and as the assets are operating, we are finding microclimates – isolated areas along the line where weather may differ substantially from the general weather that was expected and included in the line design. Combined, this means we can expect some issues that must be resolved with long-term solutions. Rest assured, we are keeping customer reliability top of mind as we think about strengthening assets to respond to evolving climate conditions.

Extreme weather can impact an asset at any time as you can see from the impacts in communities across the province last weekend. The same applies to any piece of infrastructure, roads, buildings, and yes, even one of the sturdiest transmission lines in the world.

Software to be installed this spring, while 900MW testing moved to the fall.

The final software version for the Link successfully passed Factory Acceptance Testing in March 2024. All outstanding software items have now been addressed and the software is expected to be installed later this spring.

Before the ice event this weekend, we had decided not to proceed with a 900MW test this spring. We are finalizing repairs on a component that is needed before completing the test. Some of the parts are made-to-order for our complex system and will not arrive in time to meet the weather window required for the test. You may recall from our last round of testing, to complete the test, we need very high electricity demand and that only comes with colder weather.

While the full functionality of the Labrador Island Link was tested last April and was the final requirement for commissioning, we will, in the future complete a 900MW test when system conditions allow.

A detailed quarterly report outlining these issues was filed with the Public Utilities Board yesterday and is available on the PUB website.

Media Contact:

Jill Pitcher
Senior Communications Advisor, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro
t. 709.737.1219 / c. 709.689.9938 e. JillPitcher@nlh.nl.ca