November 4, 2013
Answering the powerline construction call
VALARD POWERLINE CONTRACTOR
Unless you're in the utilities business, Valard Powerline Contractor may just be the largest specialty construction company you've never heard of.
Founded in the Northwest Territories in 1981 by chief executive officer (CEO) Victor Budzinski, the company currently employs between 1,200 and 1,400 workers and fields a fleet of more than 1,000 pieces of heavy construction equipment.
With its headquarters now located in Edmonton, Alta., Valard operates from additional offices in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.
As a full-service utility contractor, Valard offers turnkey services for transmission, distribution and telecommunications, including engineering, procurement and construction. A specialty unit is devoted entirely to transformers and sub-stations.
“We thrive on the challenges of completing any power line construction project in the most rugged terrains during the worst weather, in temperatures as low as -55 C,” said Alex Budzinski, communications co-ordinator with Valard.
“Ironically, in our industry cold conditions and the bad weather that comes with them facilitate construction. The muskeg freezes up, ice roads are built and with helicopter back-up we can build a transmission line anywhere you want it.”
Some of the northernmost projects, above the 55th parallel and beyond the tree line, involve working in periods of near 24-hour darkness during the shortest days.
Valard is currently completing the BC Hydro Northwest Transmission Line project, along with project partner Burns and McDonnell.
The 344-km line extends from Terrace in the south to the northwest region of B.C., where electricity infrastructure to support resource projects is lacking.
“Winter conditions in northern B.C. are rough,” said Budzinski.
“But, summer conditions are just as bad in their own way. The project also has a significant number of environmental constraints. In addition to the engineering, we’re constantly mindful of the migration patterns of frogs, ducks and fish. Also, our cutting and clearing for the right-of-way must be minimally invasive. We don’t ever want to leave a scarred landscape behind us.”
Valard is currently at work in northern Saskatchewan on the 300-km Island Falls to Key Lake Transmission Line Project for SaskPower.
The project includes foundation construction, installation of 900 transmission towers, and wire stringing.
“A lot of the work we’re doing is designed to expand and upgrade the Canadian power grid system,” said Budzinski.
“Utilities are planning and scheduling a significant number of projects of this sort over the coming years.”
The company is currently at work on the 500-km Eastern Alberta Transmission Line project, designed to close the electrical grid between northern and southern Alberta.
Another recent Alberta project required the use of helicopters to string power lines across the Deerfoot Trail in Calgary.
Recent signature Ontario projects include an upgrade to the transmission line from the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station to the Milton sub-station, a 300-kilometre project.
“That was a two-year project finished in 2011,” said Budzinski.
“It was a flagship project for Hydro One, and a job we completed ahead of schedule without incident.”
The company also completed its first greenfield wind farm project located near Muirkirk, Ont.
The Gesner Wind Farm, owned by Saturn Power, was built over seven months in 2012.
The project included the construction of five 100-metre wind turbines, a new substation and interconnection to the provincial power grid.
Valard was sold to U.S. owner Quanta Services in 2010, but the original Canadian management structure remains intact.
“Quanta is happy with the projects we’re bringing in and encourages us to manage projects as we traditionally have,” says Budzinski.
“We still pride ourselves on operating as a very Canadian company.”
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