12 May 2022

Transpower says the recently completed Clutha Upper Waitaki Lines Project is an example of what can be achieved with dynamic planning methods. 

The work, completed in April, allows the country to draw more electricity from Otago and Southland’s generation fleet and will enable more renewable energy development in those regions. And a project that would have usually taken several summers was completed in just 20 months.

CUWLP was proposed and approved in 2010 to facilitate renewable generation and address security of supply issues into Southland. Two of the five approved elements were commissioned in 2015 and 2016 – the duplexing of the Roxburgh-Clyde 1 and 2 circuits and the Aviemore-Waitaki Livingstone line. 

But Rio Tinto’s surprise 2019 announcement that it could close the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter – the country’s biggest power user – within two years saw the rest of the project fast-tracked.

That would see the Cromwell-Twizel line get a tactical thermal upgrade to a 75°C rating, the Roxburgh-Livingstone line duplexed, and the capacity of the Aviemore-Benmore line increased using a special protection scheme – rather than the duplexing originally envisaged. 

Teams from Transpower, Electrix, ElectroNet and Ventia had to overcome remote terrain, extreme weather conditions, land restrictions, supply issues and Covid-19 constraints. 

The project needed careful planning and analysis, as well as an agile approach, to meet those challenges and to deliver the work in a condensed timeframe.

Alternative supplies of materials had to be sourced to counter Covid-19 supply constraints, helicopters were used to deliver equipment and concrete to remote locations inaccessible by vehicles, and a fly-in-fly-out workforce schedule was used to address resourcing challenges.

Local accommodation options were identified and a collaborative health and safety plan adopted.

The completed project has roughly doubled the capacity of the lines out of the lower South Island.

This enables excess generation to be exported when the lakes are full and will avoid transmission constraints should the Tiwai Point smelter shut or reduce its demand.  

Transpower believes CUWLP is an excellent example of how the company was able to work with its partners to hit the ground running on a project of national significance, deliver innovative solutions to difficult challenges, and upskill its workforce.

The grid owner also built positive relationships with landowners and the local communities, and achieved a large amount of work future-proofing the network in a short timeframe.  

The Network Initiative of the Year Award category is sponsored by Worley

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