Electrix transmission line teams from around the country assembled in Alexandra to complete a unique continuous work programme, ensuring the national grid continues to meet the needs of all New Zealanders.
Transpower, the owner and operator of the national grid, is responsible for the reliability of the grid and must prepare for potential future supply and demand scenarios.
Electrix’s experienced transmission lines teams were engaged by Transpower to deliver the Clutha Upper-Waitaki Lines Project (CUWLP). The 142-kilometre section of line Electrix is upgrading will greatly increase the capacity of the conductor between Clutha and the Upper Waitaki Valley, improving electricity supply to Southland during dry periods and allowing additional generation to be exported northwards.
Our work involved replacing the existing conductor with higher capacity duplex conductor between the Roxburgh to Livingstone section of 220kV line, and includes tower strengthening and replacement, wire runs, and upgrading access tracks.
The upgrade is a priority project for the New Zealand government and is categorised as an essential programme of work. This means if COVID restrictions go to Level 3 or 4, work on the project will continue.
Once completed, CUWLP will enable an additional 400 megawatts of power to move northwards. To put that into context, the greater Christchurch area requires about 380 megawatts.
Electrix has completed large scale transmission line upgrades before, however, it has been many years since our line mechanics have completed a project of this scale in such a continuous work programme.
“We’ve done a lot more work of this nature on other projects, but previously they’ve been split across five years,” explained Phil Patrick, capital works manager for lines services at Electrix.
“We usually do five months a year over the summer and then wait another year and do another five or six months over the following summer.”
To accomplish this continuous programme of work, our dedicated crews committed to living in Alexandra, where they work for ten days before having four days off.
Our 80-strong team was drawn from our North Island depots in Hamilton and Palmerston North and our South Island depot in Gore.
“This is, to me, the biggest challenge. People have families at home and if you've got a couple of kids, your partner at home has to do all the work and take the kids to singing and football, or take out the rubbish and do everything themselves,” said Phil.
To assist with the travel arrangements for our staff, Electrix and Transpower organised charter flights and buses every second Friday to take teams back to their hometowns for the weekend, with one day of travelling each way.
Since January 2021, our team has been hard at work on the project and will continue to work throughout the year - except for the winter months of June, July and August when the snowy conditions will prevent work activities.