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As wind and solar become the fastest growing sources of energy in Canada, one of the biggest challenges for power producers is how to stabilize electricity from these intermittent sources of clean power.
In Ontario, wind, solar and bioenergy provided about 9% of the total 2016 power output, with about 7,068 megawatts of installed capacity, according to the Independent Electricity Supply Operator (IESO). But grid managers face enormous challenges in dealing with the variable nature of wind and solar energy supply.
In this challenge, Ontario-based Temporal Power saw an opportunity, and developed its patented flywheel energy storage system (FESS). Flywheels are essentially mechanical storage devices that act as shock absorbers for the electrical grid. They use a large rotating mass in a vacuum to convert electrical power into kinetic energy, which can later be converted back to electric power and supplied to the grid. The speed, efficiency, and ability to continuously cycle distinguish flywheels from other storage mediums, making them ideal for a variety of grid and renewable energy applications. And Temporal Power's largest flywheel has the highest commercially-available storage capacity in the world.
Eric Murray, President & CEO at Temporal Power explains that the company's flywheels respond to full power in 100 milliseconds to match destabilizing changes on the grid, storing energy and delivering electricity on time for optimal grid balancing.
"The flexibility of Temporal Power flywheels can help reduce the variability of power and energy needs on the grid, providing certainty within milliseconds," he explains in a recent interview with Invest in Ontario. "The range of our flywheels is unaffected by the number of cycles and they can take full depth of discharge cycling every day throughout their 20-year life cycle."
Temporal Power benefits from the province's vast research and development capabilities in cleantech, its skilled workforce, and network of precision equipment suppliers.
During the early days of the project, Temporal Power collaborated with the MaRS Discovery Centre and Ryerson University's Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) to investigate taking the technology to a commercial scale. The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) directly works with academia and industry to bring prospective partners together to turn ideas into income.
For Temporal Power, the commercial breakthrough started in 2012 while working on an initiative with Hydro One, integrating renewable energy with the grid north of Lake Erie. In 2013, Temporal Power followed with an installation sold to NRStor to serve the IESO with frequency response in Minto, Ontario. In the first year of operation, the Minto facility went through 5,200 full depth-of-discharge cycles (fully charged to fully discharged), demonstrating the design's ability to continue to cycle without impacting useful life.
Since launching these projects, Temporal Power has sold a second FESS for use in delivering frequency response to the IESO, with their first international project based on the island of Aruba. WEB Aruba, the utility leading the small Caribbean nation's charge to be 100% renewable generation reliant by 2020, will use a 5MW FESS.
"The project in Aruba will support the phased integration of renewables," says Murray, "Enabling the island to capture all of its energy from renewable sources, although that energy is intermittent, and without degrading fuel efficiency of base fossil generation."
Many of the islands in the Caribbean are working to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-based generation while maintaining grid stability, which is crucial for their tourism industry.
In Temporal Power's global push, Export Development Canada (EDC) has played a significant role by working with the company to craft an industry-leading financing strategy. "Canada is focused on a cleaner world, and many of Canada's strongest institutions are helping this industry segment realize global success" according to Murray. "Any industry that has significant load cycling and consumes significant amounts of electric power can benefit from FESS."
While the electric utility industry is an excellent match for the capabilities of the firm's technology, other industry segments like electric rail, mining, and materials handling will likely emerge as attractive markets for Temporal Power.
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All figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted. Information is accurate at the time of publication.