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As window for final testing narrows, N.L.'s Muskrat Falls encounters new problems

The Canadian Press
As window for final testing narrows, N.L.'s Muskrat Falls encounters new problems

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s long-suffering Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project has encountered new problems ahead of a final round of testing that must take place during the colder months.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro says the issues have pushed a round of high-power testing to late March or early April.

The Crown corporation’s latest report says a new glitch was discovered in the software that runs a subsea cable stretching across the Strait of Belle Isle, between western Newfoundland and eastern Labrador.

The report to the province’s public utilities board says frigid February temperatures have held up other troubleshooting efforts as the hydro company can’t risk outages during extreme cold.

Rob Collett, N.L. Hydro’s vice-president of engineering, says the high-power testing will determine if Muskrat Falls can smoothly deliver 700 megawatts of power to the province’s grid.

He says it’s the last round of testing the project needs to pass, but it can only be done in winter, when people crank up their thermostats and put enough demand on the grid.

In an interview, Collett said that if the high-power testing fails and reveals more problems, he and his team will likely have to wait until October or November for power demand to once again be high enough.

An attempted round of high-power tests failed last November, leaving about 58,000 people in the dark for up to 25 minutes.

Muskrat Falls is years overdue and its cost has ballooned to more than $13 billion almost double what it was expected to cost when it was sanctioned in 2012.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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