SaskPower’s first utility-scale battery is located a stone’s throw away from the Regina refinery. SaskPower

 

REGINA – Alberta has ten, but now Saskatchewan just activated its first utility-scale battery. It went online June 28.

SaskPower made the announcement on July 3 for its first utility-scale battery, located on the east side of Regina, not far from the refinery.

“SaskPower’s first ever utility-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) is now online, providing added flexibility to the provincial grid and supporting the company’s net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions efforts,” the Crown corporation said in a July 3 release.

20 megawatts

The BESS, located at SaskPower’s Fleet Street substation in Regina, has capacity to provide 20 megawatts (MW) of power to the grid – the equivalent of enough to power up to 20,000 homes for one hour, SaskPower said. The project was funded in part by the Government of Canada.

That’s the same specs as nine of the ten utility-scale batteries in Alberta, all part of that province’s eReserve fleet. The difference is all 10 batteries in Alberta are Tesla Megapack units, while SaskPower’s is made by SAFT.

SAFT also provided the small-scale battery that was part of Cowessess First Nation’s wind turbine facility east of Regina roughly 10 years ago. That’s the singular wind turbine seen southwest of Emerald Park/White City.

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“The Battery Energy Storage System will improve the management of renewable energy in Saskatchewan by balancing the power system during peak demand periods,” said the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, PrairiesCan and CanNor, on behalf of the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities. “With the new system, Saskatchewanians will now have access to more reliable energy while polluting less.”

“The addition of battery storage will enable SaskPower to better respond to the fluctuating demands of our electrical grid,” said Dustin Duncan, Minister Responsible for SaskPower. “By storing surplus renewable energy until it’s needed, this facility will help SaskPower reduce carbon emissions while keeping power rates as low as possible.”

“We are pleased to add battery storage as another tool to help us provide sustainable, reliable power to our customers,” said Rupen Pandya, SaskPower President and CEO. “The experience we gain from operating our first BESS will help us determine the potential for more battery energy storage in the future.”

SaskPower’s first utility-scale battery, at Regina. SaskPower

Alberta experience

The experience in Alberta has been documented extensively by Pipeline Online over the past two years, as that fleet has grown from four to 10 units. Up until December, 2023, the province’s batteries were typically providing power to the grid on average three times per battery per month, for up to 20 minutes each occurrence.

On Feb. 23, 2023, Pipeline Online reported, “Between the five battery facilities, over the last 30 days there was a total of 216,000 minutes they could have cumulatively provided power (43,200 minutes per month x 5 batteries). In total, they provided 202 minutes of power, or 0.09 per cent (nine ten-thousandths) of the total time available. That’s for the 30 days previous to Feb. 23, 2023.

“The last time the 20 megawatts eReserve1 Rycroft provided power to the grid was near midnight on Jan. 28, providing 20 megawatts for 12 minutes. Indeed, in the last 30 days, the facility only provided power twice, with the other instance on Jan. 25, providing 20 megawatts for 11 minutes, from 4:24 to 4:35 p.m. In total, that battery provided power for 23 minutes in 30 days.

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“eReserve2 Buffalo Creek, also 20 megawatts in capacity, had similar numbers. Its last power to the grid was 19 megawatts for 11 minutes, from 11:50 p.m. Jan. 28, to 12:01 a.m. Jan. 29. On Jan. 25, it, too, provided power from 4:23 p.m. to 4:35 p.m., 19 megawatts for total of 12 minutes, and a grand total of 23 minutes in the last 30 days.”

However, starting in December, the three newest batteries in the Alberta fleet, eReserve 7, 8 and 9, saw nearly daily usage during the supper hour at a reduced output, typically five megawatts for 60 minutes. This patter was repeated throughout most of December and January, and then occasionally a few times a month since early February, except at eight megawatts for about 90 minutes. That’s according to the website Dispatcho.app, which logs the minute-by-minute data of the entire Alberta grid, as provided by the Alberta Electric System Operator.

SaskPower’s first utility-scale battery, at Regina. SaskPower

Learning experience

This sort of experimentation is expected with SaskPower’s new battery. The SAFT batteries, for instance, are lithium ferro phosphate, the same formulation as the Tesla batteries used in Alberta. But they’re different models from Alberta’s.

SaskPower provides much less detailed data on its Where Your Power Comes From webpage. However, the battery usage won’t show up in that data on that page. SaskPower told Pipeline Online, “Even if we deployed the full 20 MW for an hour a day, for example, it would average out to less than 1 MW per hour. For the time being we are going to put the battery usage into the “other” category.”

That’s because SaskPower only provides 24 hour averages for each category of power generation, such as wind, solar, coal or natural gas.

Charging

The battery system can be charged up in an hour or less, according to SaskPower spokesperson Joel Cherry. “We have not deployed battery energy to backstop wind power yet,” he said on July 4.

Indeed, the first few days of battery operation saw wind power average around 63 megawatts over 24 hours, according to SaskPower. That’s out of a total 617 megawatts of grid-scale wind capacity connected to the SaskPower grid. On June 28, wind fell to as low as 29 megawatts output, and as low as 17 megawatts on June 29. But those days also saw relatively low power demand.

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More wind, solar and batteries

Duncan told reporters on July 3 that there will be a significant amount of wind and solar energy added over the next number of years. “But I think everyone knows that they’re intermittent. And so storage is going to be the next step in how we harness that energy and use it when we need it.”

He added, “I think it’s really about ensuring that we have the electricity when we need it, for our residents and for industries operating in Saskatchewan. It’s really about trying to pair up bigger outgrowth of what we’re doing with renewable energy, and ensuring that when the sun’s not shining, the wind’s not blowing, while you still have energy, that is clean energy that’s been stored here at the battery facility.

He noted, “This is the first of a kind for SaskPower. But it’s not going to be the last. Certainly, SaskPower has plans for adding capabilities here, in the Regina area, likely in the Saskatoon area as well.”

Asked by a reporter about how this project helps Saskatchewan “tackle climate change and moving towards addressing use of fossil fuels,” Duncan replied, “I think it’s one more tool in the toolbox for a company like SaskPower that’s looking to, first and foremost, continue to expand the amount of electricity that we produce. We’re a growing province. There’s greater demand on electrification going forward into the future.

“We also know that we need to reduce our emissions. And that’s part of SaskPower’s goal, to see a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next number of years by incorporating renewables into the system. Renewables are great, but they’re great, obviously, when the sun is shining, and the wind is blowing. And so, this allows the opportunity for SaskPower that is going to go more into renewables, to be able to capture that electricity and store it for a time when it’s used in the future, or needed in the future, at the same time exploring other generation methods or models, like a small modular reactor technology.

“So, again, really, we’re looking at an all of the above approach when it comes to ensuring that we can meet the demands of Saskatchewan residents and industries over the next number of years, so that can Saskatchewan continue to be a place for people and businesses to want to move to invest in and grow their families.”

CEO provides details

Pandya said, “This is an unmanned facility. It’s a historic first SaskPower first battery energy storage system on the grid and it will be operated by a grid operation center and dispatched as required. So it will if you think about summer and winter peak loads, this will allows to shave generation off of winter and summer peak loads. It’s also available on demand.

“The question of where this power is available: In theory, any power that goes into Saskatchewan grid is available anywhere. We tried to build power, battery energy storage systems like this proximate to load. So, you have a significant amount of industrial load in North Regina. And certainly, Regina is a significant load for SaskPower. And so, this facility will serve primarily Regina, but in theory, the power is available province-wide.

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“So this is really the first of what will be a series of battery energy storage systems that we will look to deploy province-wide. The minister spoke to 3,000 megawatts of renewables that we will incorporate into our grid by 2035. In order to incorporate that level of intermittent renewables, we will incorporate potentially up to another 500 megawatts of battery energy storage systems.

“And again, back to the load question. Those would be located outside Regina and Saskatoon to support load in our two large centers,” he said.

Pandya explained SaskPower currently has 700 megawatts of renewables on the grid, and has just closed requests for proposals for an additional 700 of wind and solar in south-central Saskatchewan.

https://youtu.be/QQeoeU5LWqY?si=eOIpG0lPZV4B3sn1

 

Shaving the peak

Pandya pointed out that the goal is not the “backup the system,” but to “shave peak load.”

“So they’re used very, very strategically, but they’re necessary to ensure you’re balancing of the intermittency of wind and solar.”

Pandya said, “So this will provide enough power to 20,000 homes for an hour or 5000 homes up to four hours.”

He added, “Just to give you an example of the usability of this system: every single day, we have wind. Right now, it’s nice and windy, we can all attest that nice and sunny. But minute-to-minute second, a second, wind and solar are, are highly variable on our grid. So if you went into our grid control centre, and you were watching wind and solar, even though right now you would all say it’s windy. In the next second, the wind just dropped, for example. It just dropped, and that impacts the amount of power that wind and solar is producing.

“So this type of resource allows us to maintain balance in the system. That’s what we mean by balance in the system. So it’s used all the time. And it’s charged all the time. It’s allow us but it also allows us to respond to those big events.”

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Lifespan

Pandya said there is a decommissioning plan for the batteries. “Their lifecycle will be driven by the amount of cycling that occurs as part of the batteries.”

That’s because rechargeable batteries have a finite number of charge cycles before they lose significant capacity. That’s why, for instance, next to no one carries a five-year-old cellphone with its original battery.

Pandya said, “We’re talking 15, 20 years, in terms of duration.”

He added of these sorts of batteries, “This will be a feature of all power systems globally in the future, no question.”

“This facility costs 34 million to build,” Pandya said. When it was initially announced on March 18, 2022, the cost was projected to be $26 million. That press release said, “This project will cost an estimated $26 million and will be funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. Construction will begin on the project starting this spring and be completed in 2023.”

Construction of the Regina BESS actually started in fall 2022, with the Canadian company On Power providing the system and its equipment, and SaskPower’s contractors completing installation on-site.

 

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