Manitoba Hydro has bought an entire farm near Oakbank as it makes way for an important component of the Bipole III high-voltage line and its accompanying converter station.
The farm’s implements, tractors and house and buildings will all be auctioned on June 17 without reserve to make way for the Riel Converter Station’s ground electrode.
“A ground electrode is typically a large metal ring about 300 to 800 metres in diameter buried approximately three metres in the ground and surrounded by a highly conductive bed of coke,” said Hydro spokesman Scott Powell. “The electrode provides grounding of the HVDC system to the earth when slight imbalances of current occur between the Bipole lines.”
He added that the electrode also acts as a ground return system that can be used during system outages.
Eleven sites were first examined for the ground electrode suitability, but the highly technical and very specific requirements ruled out seven very soon into the process.
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Requirements such as particular topography, ground resistivity, land use, water supply, potential ground rise, soil moisture, thermal conductivity of soil and heat capacity of soil. Practical concerns such as the site’s distance from Riel Station and other infrastructure were also considered.
“It gets a lot more technical than I understand,” said Jim McCarthy, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Springfield, but he said the site is actually composed of one farm and an adjacent property on Oakwood Road near the community of Hazelridge.
Following the installation of the electrode, much of the site can again be used for agriculture, said Powell.
“Once the ground electrode is operational, agricultural activities directly above the electrode site will not be permitted,” he said. “However, the area around the electrode site, within the section, can return to its original use. Manitoba Hydro will likely lease or rent the land surrounding the electrode site back to any individual interested in farming it.”
The previous owner of the farmland could not be reached for comment. But he will be available before the sale to answer questions about the buildings or equipment, a representative at Fraser Auction Service said.
And while groups like the Bipole III Coalition are still working to change the route the high-voltage line will take, the project has had benefits for the RM of Springfield.
“The positive spinoff for us is that we end up with some pretty darn good highways, like Highway 207… so there are some positive spinoffs for us as a municipality,” said McCarthy, adding the City of Winnipeg has also located its new water treatment plant in the rural municipality, which is no stranger to large-scale projects, including portions of the Red River Floodway.
“But I know that one of the sensitive issues is where the transmission line is running and how that impacts the people who have agricultural operations, and I totally understand that too,” said the reeve. “It can create hardships.”