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A long-standing electrical engineering company, Lex Engineering serves a variety of industries with passion and intergrity

As B.C. evolves, one thing remains constant: its insatiable need for more energy. That was the case back in the 1950s, when W.A.C Bennett and other policy makers realized the only way to fully develop the province’s economic potential was to increase its energy-generating capabilities. This continues to be the case—perhaps more than ever—as newcomers make B.C. their home, and infrastructure expands accordingly.

That’s why companies such as Lex Engineering Ltd. are vital to the province’s ability to function smoothly. Richmond-based Lex is an electrical engineering firm serving the utility, public sector mining, oil and gas, forestry, cement, manufacturing and construction industries.

Lex provides a comprehensive range of industrial power and control engineering services, including studies, design development, power generation, protection, equipment specifications, procurement, construction and start-up support. An integral part of these services is to negotiate with utilities for transmission connections, allowing Lex to design transmission lines, transmission taps and high-voltage substations as part of the overall services it offers.

Not surprisingly, as the resource sector kindles what most economists predict will soon be a massive economic surge for B.C. and the rest of Canada, Lex is busier than ever providing electrical engineering services to past and present clients.

The most obvious examples of its handiwork are the numerous substations and related infrastructure that bring power to industry in Northern B.C. and to the heart of Metro Vancouver, including clients such as Neptune Terminals, Alterra Power Corp. (Dokie Wind farm). A number of resource extraction and processing companies rely on Lex to make their projects possible; consequently, Lex itself is on the threshold of major growth, says founder and president Guy Lemieux, P. Eng., adding that some of the work will include updating existing substations.

Lemieux, who launched Lex as a firm of consulting electrical engineers in 1979, has always believed that the industry in B.C. would have substantial growth accompanied by expansion of private sector and utility electrical power infrastructure. “Back when I was the electrical supervisor for Weyerhaeuser in Kamloops I could see the continuing trend of industrial development based on B.C.’s availability of electrical power, our resources, government stability and the province’s desirability as a place to live.”

Lemieux founded Lex on two simple and old-fashioned principles: a commitment to professional integrity and long-term client relationships. The company is able to deliver cost-effective solutions to clients utilizing the staff’s experience and the latest proven technologies. Lex’s growth to its present status as a leader in its field has been supported by vice president of engineering Paul Fuoco; dipl, vice president of transmission staff Derek Hutchinson, P. Eng.; and staff. Lex’s recruitment has garnered skilled engineers from locales such as Russia, China, India, Australia and Canada. Lex’s staff includes registered forester George Mulder, who brings a wealth of experience in licensing and permitting transmission right-of-ways.

Lex’s contribution to the province’s private sector electrical infrastructure is extensive, including the design of approximately 75 high-voltage substations and 230 kV transmission lines up to 92 kilometers long.

Lex has provided power infrastructure for projects including a 69 kV substation and 25 kV power distribution system for Vancouver International Airport. Lex is presently providing engineering services for the replacement of a 50 MVA transformer, including foundation, equipment specifications, power connections, protection interconnections and communications.
Lex also enthusiastically embraces projects that involve clean, renewable types of energy generation, such as wind farms and compressor station heat recovery. “Wind farms work well in conjunction with the province’s hydro generation dams that are water limited,” says Lemieux. “When the wind blows, you can keep the water in the reservoir. Wind generation can act as a virtual water supply to the reservoir.”

A recent project is the Neptune Bulk Terminal upgrades on tidal water. This aspect requires strict scheduling, and therefore the terminal’s upgraded power supply had to have redundant (backup) transformers.

Lex was tasked with locating a 69 kV substation in a tight location between a railway lines, settling ponds and roadways; and have provisions for lower-level road improvements. Lex introduced the concept of gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) contained in a building. This system enabled the substation to be stacked above the power transformers and 12.5 kV distribution switchgear. “The 69 kV substation looks more like a plumbing job than an electrical job,” says Lemieux. Paul Fuoco was project manager.

Due to the low-founding soil strength, 78 truckloads of crushed rock were brought in and compacted in columns with vibrators in a process called soil densification. This process improves soil strength and decreases liquefaction during an earthquake. Connecting underground duct banks for power cables had to be designed to withstand the weight of a locomotive should a derailment occur on the duct. Neptune also insisted upon rigid architectural standards to ensure that the facility fit well into the surrounding North Vancouver neighbourhood.

As complex as the Neptune project is, it’s not the biggest recent project in Lex’s portfolio. That designation belongs to the Dokie Wind Project, located about an hour’s drive northwest of Chetwynd and the largest commercial wind farm operations in the province. Dokie is comprised of 48 Vestas V90 wind turbines, 35 kV collector lines, a 230 kV step-up substation, and seven kilometres of 230 kV transmission lines. The wind farm provides 320,000-340,000 MWh per year of clean energy to BC Hydro under a 25-year Electricity Purchase Agreement.

In addition to crediting his crew for completing challenging projects on schedule and budget, Lemieux points out that Hutchinson has built a strong transmission-line engineering department. Lex uses PLSCad software in conjunction with airborne LiDAR survey data. The LiDAR topographic survey data is loaded into the PLSCad program and the transmission line is designed in three-dimensional computer space. This technology facilitates establishment of and changes to the centerline of a transmission line without sending a survey crew out with axes and chainsaws to procure ground-based survey data.

As 2013 comes to a close, Lemieux and his colleagues are already heavily involved in the next few years of B.C.’s infrastructure growth, “Many things are coming down the turnpike and we’re well-positioned to deal with the work ahead,” says Lemieux. “Essentially, we will go wherever more electrical power is required.”