BC Hydro’s Merritt Area Transmission project (MAT) is now complete and supplying Merritt with double the capacity of its former power.

The project consisted of upgrades to a substation near Mamette Lake and the Merritt substation as well as a new 35-kilometre long 138-kilovolt transmission line connecting the two.

The new transmission line replaces and doubles the capacity of the existing 69-kilovolt line, which is being de-energized. It will remain in place for potential use in the future, MAT project manager Andrew Leonard told the Herald.

The city uses some 40 megawatts of power on a daily basis, and before upgrading the Merritt site, BC Hydro was able to provide about 45 megawatts.

BC HydroThe ceiling is now much higher.

“Nominal capacity was just under 40 megawatts and then we would overload the transformers to try and meet the demand, so the new station as it’s set up right now can take 67 megawatts,” Leonard said.

He also said the new power capacity should open up more potential for economic development in Merritt

“Any business that wants to move to town, there will be absolutely no issue about power supply now, whereas before there was some issues because we were so close to capacity,” Leonard said.

The new line is also built to modern standards. The old line dated back to the 1950s.

The new line runs south from the Highland substation and turns west near Airport Road, with power polls running into town to the Merritt substation at the end of Spring Bank Road.

BC Hydro said the project had a $65 million budget, and its cost came in $5 million underneath that.

Construction began in 2013, and completion was delayed a year last fall due to transformers BC Hydro ordered that were not up to specifications.

With the project now in the books, the next step for BC Hydro is rebuilding a portion of the existing transmission line in Merritt to connect with Merritt Green Energy (MGE), and independent power producer expected to open in 2016.

“Over the next several months [MGE will] be building their portion of the transmission line and that’ll join up to our portion,” Leonard said.

He said the lines meet up just west of Merritt near Highway 8.

Walter Udell, Vice President of Project Delivery, BC Hydro said in a press release that the Crown corporation is expecting demand for electricity to increase significantly over the next 30 years in the Nicola Valley.