ST. JOHN’S, NL – The latest version of software for testing on the Labrador-Island Link (LIL) had to be removed from the system last month before testing could be completed, according to an update from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro filed with the province Public Utilities Commission (PUB).

“Due to issues discovered during dynamic commissioning (testing), the latest version of software has been removed from the system and replaced with the previous version to allow LIL to function while GE (General Electric Canada) completes patches software”, the update letter states.

“LIL is currently operating in monopole mode on Pole 2 while GE is performing an equipment survey to confirm that all hardware on Pole 1 is working properly after issues encountered during dynamic commissioning. LIL may return to bipolar mode once the investigation is complete and it has been determined that all Pole 1 equipment is functioning properly.

The update is dated July 7.

General Electric completed factory acceptance testing of the latest software version on June 8. The results were reviewed by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the software was determined to be acceptable to be handed over to LIL for dynamic commissioning, which began June 14. This test was to last two to three weeks.

“Midway through testing, GE discovered issues with the software and halted the test plan,” according to the update. “GE has completed its investigation of the issues and provided the findings to Hydro. Hydro is working closely with GE to define the full scope of software fixes and test suite needed to ensure that the root causes of issues are addressed before approving the release of the software for dynamic commissioning. GE expects to complete software patches and regression testing in July.

Once the software patches are complete, it will need to go through Factory Acceptance Testing again before being handed over to LIL to restart the dynamic commissioning phase.

Such setbacks became frequent and prevented full commissioning of the massively over-budgeted and years-delayed megaproject.

The $256 million cost increase announced last month was attributed to the delay in fixing the LIL software issues. Hydro was unable to operate the LIL to full capacity or with confidence due to persistent bugs in each custom software release.

The overall cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project now stands at $13.37 billion.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro President and CEO Jennifer Williams is confident that GE will iron out the bugs and have an LIL software package of a standard that Hydro and its customers have come to expect.

Williams said when releasing Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s annual business and financial report on June 29 that while there are challenges with the software, progress is being made.

“Muskrat Falls produces. We provide power on the LIL to island customers, as well as Nova Scotia and beyond,” Williams said. “We continue to work with (GE) to advance the software required to properly operate the LIL at various levels.”

Hydro’s annual report indicates that in the short term, the reliability of the province’s electrical system does not depend on the commissioning of Muskrat Falls and the LIL.

“Although we do not need electricity from Muskrat Falls to serve our customers, we have already begun to put our new assets to good use, efficiently integrating them into our system and using as much energy as possible to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions at (Holyrood Thermal Power Station), where possible,” the report states.

The document also notes that in 2021 the LIL was energized about 40% of the time, reaching a peak output in December of 424 MW, or about 87% of the capacity of the Holyrood plant.

“We remain focused on bringing LIL into full service and continuing to provide reliable power to the people of our province, as well as our neighbors in Nova Scotia,” the report said.

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