FREDERICTON – The federal government and Nova Scotia energy company Emera are investing $4.3 million in the University of New Brunswick’s smart grid research project, it was announced Wednesday.
In an interview with Huddle, Emera President and CEO Chris Huskilson said this second investment in UNB’s smart grid efforts is part of a program it started with the university earlier this year.
“Today, you can see 30 – 40 per cent of renewables [in the grid], and that’s okay,” said Huskilson. “But we’re trying to aim for 100 per cent and you need some new technologies. UNB is extremely well positioned to do that, so we’ve invested to help them do that kind of work.”
Emera will invest $1.4 million in the project. The government will provide over $2.8 million through Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Fund and $82,100 through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
“Investing in next generation clean energy infrastructure and technologies will advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy, meet the world’s future energy needs and help realize our climate change goals,” ACOA said in the release.
The project will include designing, building, testing and demonstrating Distributed Energy Resource (DER) solutions for commercialization by industry and implementation by utilities. DERs are the small wind and solar generators, energy storage, and some household and commercial electrical loads from the likes of air conditioners and water heaters.
To maintain the right voltage and frequency in the power system, the power load and generation need to be balanced. In the past, this balancing was done through large, mainly thermal, generators. Today, as more variable renewable power from wind and solar sources enter the mainstream generation, researchers need to find alternative ways to achieve that balance.
The new technology UNB is developing will help deliver “reliability, efficiency and flexibility in the system,” said Dr. Liuchen Chang, the lead researcher on the project, in an interview with Huddle.
Emera will test the technology through its system network at Barbados Light and Power. The company is driving a campaign to move Barbados from fossil fuel generation to 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy by 2045. The Caribbean country’s utility will serve as the first level of real-time demonstration and commercialization of the technology.
Huskilson said Emera chose Barbados for testing because it has a relatively small but complete system, with large generators, wind and solar sources, and a diverse customer base.
“So we were able to test at a system level without having to integrate it into a very, very large system, which Atlantic Canada would be.”
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