Sault advancing energy storage innovation: Project will result in cost savings for customers.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

Anew energy savings project being launched by Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Services is estimated to save commercial customers up to $5 million a year in Sault Ste. Marie.

In August, the municipally owned PUC announced it was moving forward with the $100-million Customer Energy Management (CEMa) program. In partnership with the global energy storage company Fluence, PUC is constructing a 45-megawatt energy storage facility that promises to lessen costs for business customers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and model new energy-storage technology for other communities.

It will be the largest project of its kind in Canada.

Rob Brewer, CEO of the local energy distribution company, said the idea for the project originated about two and a half years ago as a way to help commercial customers reduce their rising energy costs. But at the time, the nascent technology still required fine-tuning to become economically viable; namely, the lithium-ion batteries that store generated power were still too pricy.

Technology has advanced, however, and the cost has come down, improving the economic model.

"We're in a position whereby, helping to shape provincial peaks, we can use the cost differential to allow our commercial customers to benefit to the tune of about $3 million to $5 million a year, which, over the course of the project, is almost $100 million," Brewer said.

"So it's a very significant thing for our local economy, and we're of course very, very happy to be able to bring it to them."

Surplus energy generated during offpeak times (such as at night) will be stored in a giant lithium-ion battery. Then, when more energy is needed, the battery pumps that energy back into the system.

Because that energy is generated by renewable methods, such as hydroelectric, nuclear and wind projects, no carbon emissions are produced as a result of that power, Brewer noted. That means the project will annually save close to 32,000 metric tonnes in carbon--or, the equivalent of 6,800 cars.

"So just by doing that and taking through the middle of the night when we have surplus and bringing it back in when it's more needed at peak, it's a very significant cost savings," Brewer said. "But it's also very significant carbon savings, which is something that this area has certainly been a leader in."

When up and running, CEMa is expected to help reduce energy costs for about 3,000 commercial class customers, Brewer said. That includes hospitals, post-secondary...

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