5 Questions with Olivier Larocque on How We're Bringing Underground Cables Back to Life

May 30, 2016

Olivier Featured
Earlier this year, we told you about the challenge we're facing with many underground cables around the province. Those cables are reaching the end of their lifespan and are failing more often, causing unplanned outages.

But 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 Regina and Saskatoon?

    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. Why doesn't SaskPower just replace all of the underground cables?

    If we were to replace every damaged cable, it would cost around $3-4 million per neighbourhood. Injecting the cables to fix them is four to five times cheaper than replacing them entirely.

    A blended approach will save money. That's very important to us, especially since over 40 per cent of our customer's monthly bills are going towards renewing our aging infrastructure.

  3. How do you pick the neighbourhoods in Regina and Saskatoon?

    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.

    This summer we'll be working in the Regina neighbourhoods of Normanview, Glencairn and Albert Park.

    In Saskatoon we'll be working in the neighbourhoods of Confederation Park, Wildwood, Lakeview, Lakeridge and River Heights.

  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 24-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!

 

Quotables:

"A blended approach will save money. That's very important to us, especially since over 40 per cent of our customer's monthly bills are going towards renewing our aging infrastructure."

"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."

"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."

 

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