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Utilities getting a grip on wind  

Credit:  By COLLEEN COSGROVE Business Reporter | January 4, 2013 | thechronicleherald.ca ~~

In a region where wind energy is claiming its place as a legitimate renewable energy source, Maritime utilities are working together to harness its power and maximize its potential, even on those calm and peaceful days.

As part of a four-year pilot project, new software dubbed the Virtual Power Plant aggregates wind forecast data with customer usage data to capture wind energy and store it for later use. The project aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and create a more efficient electrical grid.

“More and more wind is coming on the system in Atlantic Canada so the concept came from thinking outside the box on how to integrate wind on the power grid,” retail operations director Kerry Jennex of Nova Scotia Power said in an interview Friday.

Power Shift Atlantic launched in 2010 as a collaborative research initiative led by NB Power in partnership with Saint John Energy, Maritime Electric and Nova Scotia Power. The four-year $32-million pilot project received $16 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada through its Clean Energy Fund, with the remainder contributed by the four utilities, as well as New Brunswick System Operation, the University of New Brunswick and the provincial governments of New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Because wind can only create electricity when it is blowing, power utilities need backup generators in order to keep the lights on.

Wind energy supplies about nine per cent of the power load in Nova Scotia.

“Wind turbines are producing energy but when the wind stops, we’re balancing and offsetting that wind power with the coal plant, which creates greenhouse gases,” Jennex said.

“Rather than manage with the coal plants, we’re trying to manage the customers’ usage by monitoring their patterns.”

A load control device requires an Internet connection to aggregate wind speed data and the customer’s usage profile to shift energy supply to specific appliances in order to optimize wind power. The Virtual Power Plant is the software that translates the data and sends a remote signal to the load control device about when to run appliances like water heaters and electric thermal storage systems.

Jennex said shifting the timing of some energy use will reduce the need to fire up coal plants when the wind isn’t blowing.

The pilot project is using customer load profiles to gather the aggregate data. To date, 500 Nova Scotia Power customers – both commercial and residential – have agreed to participate.

Although customers won’t see a change to their power bill, Jennex said participants are signing on because they want to be part of something bigger.

Additional customers who are interested in participating are welcome to contact Nova Scotia Power for more information.

“Customers tell us they care about the environment and about prices, and this is both of those things,” Jennex said. “It’s an option for customers to be part of the solution.”

Working in concert with utilities in the region is a win-win for all involved, she said, because they’re sharing information and learning lessons along the way.

Nova Scotia Power will be the final utility to have customers using the Virtual Power Plant. Software training begins next week.

Jennex said the focus is on making sure the technology works, that it’s not affecting customer routines and that it is economically viable.

The project has already raked in a couple of industry awards. The Canadian Electricity Association awarded Power Shift Atlantic its sustainable electricity award last summer and the Canadian Wind Energy Association received the R.J. Templin Award, which recognizes significant advancements in the Canadian wind industry.

Source:  By COLLEEN COSGROVE Business Reporter | January 4, 2013 | thechronicleherald.ca

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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