SaskPower's battery energy storage system comes online with goal of lightening load on power grid

SaskPower has announced that a new battery-based energy storage system is online in Regina.

It's the first facility of its kind in Saskatchewan and is meant to add flexibility to the power grid, especially when there is high demand during the frozen depths of winter or the sweltering heat of summer.

"The objective of a battery energy storage system is to shave peak load. So they're used very strategically, but they're necessary to ensure you're balancing the intermittence of wind and solar in our system," said Rupen Pandya, CEO of SaskPower.

The $34-million project was partially funded by the federal government, which chipped in $13.1 million. The rest was covered by SaskPower.

The storage happens in large ion batteries housed in modified shipping containers at a substation on Fleet Street.

The containers are fenced off from the public and appear to be nothing special on the outside, but officials say this and similar projects will help Saskatchewan in the future.

"We've already made commitments to a significant amount of wind and solar energy over the next number of years, but I think everybody knows that they're intermittent," said Dustin Duncan, the minister responsible for all major Saskatchewan Crown corporations including SaskPower.

"Storage is going to be the next step in how we [will] harness that energy and be able to use it when we need it."

SaskPower has announced its first battery energy storage system is now online in Regina.
SaskPower has announced its first battery energy storage system is now online in Regina. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

SaskPower said the facility, which uses technology from the Canadian On Power company, has the capacity to provide 20 megawatts of power to the the grid. According to the Crown corporation, that's enough to light up 20,000 homes for one hour.

Pandya said the battery storage system has more flexibility and can respond quickly to short-term power fluctuations.

The facility itself is unmanned and will be operated by SaskPower's grid operations centre, Pandya said, and will be able to help the entire province even though it's located in Regina.

"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 provincewide," he said.

Pandya said the life cycle for the batteries will be dependent on the amount of cycling that occurs as they are used, but estimated it at between 15 and 20 years.

Minister Dustin Duncan, who is responsible for all major Crown corporations speaks at an announcement on July 3, 2024.
Minister Dustin Duncan, who is responsible for all major Crown corporations, believes power storage is going to be the next step in in how Saskatchewan harnesses renewable energy. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

Officials say this is unlikely to be the only facility of its kind in the province.

SaskPower hopes to add up to 500 MW of battery energy storage system as the province looks to incorporate 3,000 MW of renewable energy into the grid by 2035.

"This is just, I think, 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," said Duncan.