Like many municipalities, ones in Ontario are starting to play a larger role in energy production and distribution. One local company, PowerStream
, is owned by three such municipalities together: Barrie, Markham, and Vaughan. And like many of these smaller companies, the focus is increasingly on using smart grid technology and renewable energy sources to lower the environmental burdens of providing power. A few weeks ago, PowerStream unveiled a new micro grid demonstration project in an attempt to further explore those possibilities.
Smart grid technology is essentially a way of fine-tuning the collection and distribution of power across a network, by working with real-time, fine-grained information about energy demands, sending power to where it is most needed and in some cases bringing power sources on- and off-line dynamically, to meet changing demands. PowerStream's micro grid works in the same way, but on a much smaller scale than the provincial power system—it's scaled to meet local needs, ideally with local, renewable power sources. It also latches into the provincial grid, drawing power from it when needed, and sending power to the grid if it's producing more than it requires.
PowerStream's micro grid demonstration project is installed at its head office in Vaughan. John Mulrooney, director of smart grid technologies for PowerStream, explains the project in a video guide
as: "a two-phase initiative that will evaluate the micro grid's effectiveness as an alternative energy supplier for PowerStream's head office. It will test the ability to utilize different power sources and storage while delivering safe, reliable service."
In the first phase, power—coming from solar panels, wind turbines, and natural gas generator, and stored in three different types of batteries—will be used to provide electricity for the building's lighting, a/c system, and refrigeration, plus charging stations for their electric vehicles. The goal in this first phase is to test how well the system operates when it's disconnected from the provincial grid. The second phase will see new sources of power generation added into the mix; the goal at that point will be to test the grid's ability to feed power into the provincial network.
Writer: Hamutal Dotan