01 February 2012

Adams and Nalcor: Second Round #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Energy analyst Tom Adams’ latest blog post on the Muskrat Falls project takes direct aim at the water studies used by Nalcor to support its claim that the plant will produce 4.9 terawatts of electricity each year.

Adams writes:

it appears that Nalcor took a study that estimated the energy production available from Muskrat Falls as delivered to an unconstrained interface at the Quebec/Labrador border and applied those study results to the Integrated Island/Nova Scotia system instead. Since the constraints of the Integrated Island/Nova Scotia system bear heavily on the potential output of Muskrat Falls, I believe that there is no basis for you to assert that Muskrat Falls will ever generate close to 4.9 TWh given the system you are now seeking approval for.

Adams appeared on VOCM Nightline and explained his concerns.  Your humble e-scribbler talked to Adams afterward and got more details.

His comments are based on information Nalcor provided to the public utilities board. They are a 1999 study by SNC and an Acres power study done in 1998 and apparently re-affirmed by more recent work described in a four page summary that omits any details.

Adams notes that the water flow studies were based on particular configurations, including building Muskrat Falls as part of a complex including Gull Island. No one has looked at a river system consisting of only Muskrat Falls below the Churchill Falls complex.

Take a look at the table from the Acres study filed with the PUB.  You can see someone’s simple calculation for Muskrat falls.  He or she just looked for the difference between Churchill Falls and Gull and another scenario with Churchill Falls, Gull and Muskrat.


Does that make a difference?  Adams thinks so. 

Your humble e-scribbler might go a bit beyond that.  The higher energy numbers for Muskrat Falls in this table – the ones closest to current estimates – come from a scenario that includes water from two river diversions planned for 1998 but subsequently abandoned. That’s more curious than anything at this point but it suggests Adams may be onto something.

When it comes to delivering electricity to Nova Scotia, Adams has a new point.  He notes that the Nalcor claims about Muskrat’s output come from a different transmission scenario:  one way into Quebec or into Quebec and onto the island.

Adams suggests that congestion on the island lines, especially routing through the hydro lines through the central part of the island, may produce significant congestion.  That congestion could adversely affect how much electricity flows to Nova Scotia.

Is Adams right?

Let’s see if Nalcor answers him this time with something more enlightening than simply claiming that he’s wrong.

- srbp -