TransAlta testing Tesla batteries.
TransAlta will install technology at its Blue Trail wind farm
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.