Tran­sAlta test­ing Tesla bat­ter­ies.

Tran­sAlta will in­stall tech­nol­ogy at its Blue Trail wind farm

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - SHEILA PRATT spratt@ed­mon­ton­jour­

Dan Chap­man wants to put a fridge-sized bat­tery in an apart­ment build­ing and fill it up with elec­tric­ity from so­lar pan­els on the roof so that at night there’s plenty of power.

Or a gro­cery store could lower its power bill by us­ing the su­per-size bat­tery to store power at night when the price is low and use it in the day­time when elec­tric­ity rates on the grid soar.

Cal­gary-based Tran­sAlta is bring­ing this new tech­nol­ogy, made by Cal­i­for­ni­abased elec­tric car­maker Tesla, to Al­berta as part of the province’s push to in­crease the amount of re­new­able energy in the province, says Chap­man, Tran­sAlta’s chief engi­neer.

The big­gest prob­lem with re­new­able energy like wind and so­lar is the un­sta­ble sup­ply — when the wind dies or clouds move in, the power stops, says Mark Sum­mers with the gov­ern­ment re­search agency Al­berta In­no­vates — Energy and En­vi­ron­ment So­lu­tions.

So the agency put out a pro­posal call, with a $250,000 prize for each win­ner, for new tech­nol­ogy to solve the stor­age prob­lems, smooth out sup­ply and de­velop tech­nol­ogy ap­pro­pri­ate to Al­berta’s pri­vate elec­tric­ity mar­ket.

Chap­man was in Cal­i­for­nia this spring when Tesla un­veiled its rev­o­lu­tion­ary lo­cal-use big-bat­tery tech­nol­ogy and made a deal to bring the new prod­uct north.

(Tesla also un­veiled a smaller ver­sion, called a power wall, that lets a home­owner store energy right in the house for use later.)

Tran­sAlta hasn’t iden­ti­fied a busi­ness or apart­ment site to test the com­mer­cial use of the big bat­ter­ies to be built by Tesla. But it will in­stall bat­ter­ies at its Blue Trail wind farm near Fort Macleod.

The idea is to prove the bat­ter­ies are ca­pa­ble of smooth­ing out the wind power sup­ply by stor­ing the ex­cess power, which could also be sold when elec­tric­ity is at peak de­mand times and thereby max­i­mize rev­enues.

If you don’t like the idea of large, ex­pen­sive chem­i­cal­based bat­ter­ies, there’s another op­tion — com­pressed air mod­ules stuffed into ship­ping con­tain­ers.

Nova Sco­tia-based Unify Energy won $250,000 for a com­pressed air pro­ject in that province us­ing new tech­nol­ogy also from a Cal­i­for­nia firm, Light Sail.

The pro­ject will at­tach to a wind farm enough ship­ping con­tain­ers to store elec­tric­ity to run 200 houses for eight hours, Se­bas­tian Manch­ester said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“Twenty mod­ules could help in­te­grate a pretty big wind farm,” Manch­ester said, adding that he is look­ing for part­ners in Al­berta.

These com­pressed air ship­ping con­tain­ers are much big­ger than Tesla’s fridge-sized bat­ter­ies. But they are also much cheaper to man­u­fac­ture, use read­ily avail­able ma­te­ri­als and can store about as much power, he said.

The com­pressed air is put into car­bon fi­bre stor­age units in­side the ship­ping con­tainer at 3,000 PSI.

The sys­tem is highly ef­fi­cient as heat gen­er­ated by com­press­ing the air is stored in wa­ter and used later to de­com­press the air when elec­tric­ity is needed.

Three other win­ners are ZincNyx Energy So­lu­tion, Univer­sity of Cal­gary with large scale liq­uid bat­ter­ies, Am­bri and Eguana Tech­nolo­gies.

The com­pa­nies have two years to com­plete their projects.


Tran­sAlta’s Dave Chap­man was in Cal­i­for­nia when elec­tric car­maker Tesla un­veiled its new bat­ter­ies, which are about the size of a re­frig­er­a­tor.

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