5 Questions with Oliver Larocque about Underground Cable Injection

September 18, 2016

Olivier Featured

Forty per cent of your monthly power bill is put toward maintenance and repairs to our aging electrical system. While you can't see them, there are cables underground that provide electrical services. But many of them are reaching the end of their lifespan and are failing more often, causing unplanned outages.

We're on the case with some unique ways to deal with this problem. To learn more, we sat down with Olivier Larocque, Project Administrator with Distribution Assets.

  1. What is SaskPower doing about the aging underground cables in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw?

    This year we are tackling the problem in a few different ways.

    The first involves cable rejuvenation. To rejuvenate cables, we inject them with a liquid that fills in cracks in the old insulation. This is a cheaper, easier way to extend the cable's life another 20-40 years.

    If that doesn't work which happens around 25 per cent of the time we replace the cable entirely within the next couple of years.

    The third option is to use spare duct installation. Instead of burying cables in the dirt, we secure the cables three feet underground inside a flexible pipe (or duct). This summer we will be installing ducts to protect cables in a few different areas.

  2. The record dry weather in southern Saskatchewan caused ground shifting this summer, which caused underground wires to be pulled on, and related issues with meter boxes. Is this work related to that?

    No, this is a separate program to improve reliability. Cable injection deals with the high voltage underground cables and allows us to extend their lifespan.

  3. How do you pick the neighbourhoods in these communities?

    It's pretty clear when there's a problem with the cables in an area. That area is likely seeing more and more outages.

    When we think we have a problem, a power line technician goes out to the neighbourhood and inspects all of the underground cables in the area. Later, we will decide whether rejuvenation or replacement is the best way forward.

    - Saskatoon (September) River Heights, Wildwood and Confederation Park
    - Prince Albert (October) Carlton Park and Crescent Heights
    - Moose Jaw (November) Regal Heights and Westheath

  4. How will this work affect me?

    Customers won't notice a lot of the construction work. But some homes will experience one or two power outages, lasting up to four hours each. We need to turn the power off to work safely.

    If we select your area, you'll receive a door-hanger notification at least 48-hours before a power outage happens.

  5. What have the results of this work been so far?

    Very promising! When we go back and look at every neighbourhood that has gone through the cable rejuvenation or replacement process, we've seen a big decrease in unplanned power outages. I'm sure the customers in those areas are happy about that!

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