Halton Hills Hydro Inc. is launching a pilot energy storage project this week that could mean substantial savings for industries and utility companies on their hydro bills, and change the way they manage their electricity use. The project could also potentially spark interest in a $100 million manufacturing venture for southern Ontario. Dan Guatto, president of Halton Hills Hydro (HHHI), said the load shifting project being run at the HHHI office in Acton, will use five large ZEBRA (sodium and nickel chloride) batteries imported from Switzerland to store electrical energy bought at a lower cost during non-peak nighttime hours to be used throughout peak daytime hours, when power is significantly more expensive. The power will be used to supply the hydro used in the utility's office building. The typical difference in price for power purchased between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. vs. peak hours is five to eight cents per kwh, said Guatto."Software will be used to judge when the best time to charge is, and will judge when is the best time to discharge, optimizing the financial efficiency of this thing," said Guatto. The system was designed and installed by Mississauga-based BET Services Inc., while Angus GeoSolutions Inc. of Georgetown created the software that manages charging and discharging. Guatto said they believe the load shifting project is the first of its kind anywhere using sodium nickel chloride batteries, which he explained are not environmentally hazardous, can be used indoors, and are recyclable. The batteries have a total output of 100-kilowatt hours, but can be scaled up to one megawatt hour, or higher. The project was developed through the utility's conservation and demand management program, which Guatto said was mandated by the provincial government "to create a culture of (energy) conservation" in Ontario. "We'd like to manage it (the load shifting project) with both efficiency of the technology in mind, and the status of the market price in mind to achieve the highest savings in energy costs," said Guatto. "We believe this can be scaled up dramatically to create even greater shifting of the load to off-peak hours." "It could be scaled up or scaled down to fit any load," said Guatto, who believes the system could eventually be adapted for residential use. "We hope to make a big opportunity out of it. There's value for the environment and for the business that would use such a system," said Guatto. "It's one technology that can help to improve the way electricity is used in Ontario." Over the next couple of months Guatto said they want to determine the true costs of implementing the project and how much savings could be realized with the hope of marketing the system through one of HHHI's affiliate companies, such as Southwestern Energy Inc., to commercial and utilities customers. He said there has already been interest from both those sectors in the project. Both the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricty System are watching the Acton test to see if it could be more broadly implemented to relieve transmission bottlenecks during peak times. The idea of storing electric power in batteries on a utility scale has been dismissed over the years because of high cost and lack of adequate technologies in the market. Guatto said he's convinced the Zebra batteries could buck the trend. The problem is volume. If 100,000 Zebra batteries can be manufactured annually out of a single plant, the economics become attractive. But currently the ZEBRA batteries, a total of 2,000 annually, are only manufactured in one facility located in Switzerland. HHHI has looked at licensing the technology from MES-DA, the Swiss company that owns the technology and facility where the batteries are manufactured, with an eye to establishing a North American manufacturing operation for large-scale production. A preliminary business plan estimated the facility would cost $117 million over five years, creating 900 new jobs by 2015 and a venture with $275 million in annual sales.
Halton Hills Hydro Inc. is launching an energy storage project this week that uses large ZEBRA batteries, shown here with the utility's president Dan Guatto, to store electrical energy bought at non-peak nighttime hours to be used throughout peak daytime hours.