The completion of BC Hydro’s Merritt Area Transmission (MAT) project has been delayed a year because of two faulty transformers.

The entire initiative was expected to be completed this coming November, but will now take until October 2015 to finish.

Andrew Leonard, BC Hydro project manager for the MAT line, told council at its regular meeting on Aug. 26 that two transformers, which had come from a supplier in China, were found to be damaged and defective upon inspection.

Leonard said the transformers had been contaminated, which can lead to sparking within the device, causing explosions in the worst case scenario.

“The transformers are the heart of the substation,” Leonard said.

Leonard said BC Hydro could not take the risk of repairing the transformers and putting them into service.

“The risk being if one or both of those transformers had failed, basically the city would be out of power for at least three days — likely longer,” he said.

He said the size of one transformer is roughly equivalent to the size of a garage and they cost $1 million apiece.

Leonard also said BC Hydro had inspectors at the factory in China examine these two transformers.

“This damage and contamination just was not caught because you can’t be there at all times,” Leonard said.

In the meantime, BC Hydro will continue to operate the current 69 kilovolt substation and transmission line, which the company says can continue to satisfy Merritt’s energy needs in the interim.

There are three transformers in use at the current Merritt substation, ranging from 14 to 17 mega volt amperes. Additionally, the station houses a back-up transformer ready to use in the event one of the transformers fail, Leonard told the Herald.

A second backup transformer will be available in Vernon if need be.

BC Hydro reviewed the current peak loads that have been experienced the past few years in Merritt, and the health of the current station, Leonard said via email. He said they determined the existing station with the mobile transformer on site are enough to keep the station in service one more year.

Two new transformers have already been ordered from another manufacturer, with which BC Hydro has a good relationship, Leonard said.

This new supplier is Hyundai and is expected to have the new transformers ready by July 2015.

Leonard said BC Hydro expects to remain within their original budget despite the delay.

The MAT project consists of a new 35 kilometre-long 138 kilovolt transmission line, and a new substation that includes two 75 mega volt amperes transformers and an indoor 25 kilovolt gas insulated switchgear building, located at the end of Spring Bank Avenue next to the current substation.

Most of the project is still expected to be near completion by November. Leonard said the two substations will be about 85 per cent complete by that time and 75 per cent of the transmission line will be finished.

Construction on the new Merritt substation began last May. The modifications to the Highland substation near Mamit Lake began this past June.

The transmission line is being erected primarily on a cleared corridor and will come south from the Highland substation entering Merritt from the east along the Coquihalla Highway.

The delay in the project isn’t expected to have an impact on the Merritt Green Energy biomass plant.

The MAT project is replacing the current radial line and Merritt substation that serve the city.