Regina will soon be home to one big battery.
A SaskPower battery energy storage system has been green lit for construction in the city's northeast corner — a project the utility hopes will help it power homes in a more environmentally friendly way.
A battery energy storage system, or BESS, captures energy from different sources and stores it in rechargeable batteries for later use.
SaskPower says that can provide flexibility by letting utilities adapt to spikes in supply and demand. Battery storage also supports intermittent power generation options, like wind and solar, by making it possible to store some of the power they generate for later use.
Currently, Saskatchewan gets 25 per cent of its power from renewable sources — 20 per cent from hydro and five per cent from wind, SaskPower says.
Its 20-megawatt Regina battery energy storage facility will be located at its substation on Fleet Street. It will include two large batteries, able to hold 10 megawatts each.
That's enough energy to power 20,000 homes for one hour, SaskPower said in a news release earlier this year.
The batteries will be connected into the grid in a two-way system, with power going in through transmission lines and then transmitted back to the grid as needed.
Marc Beliveau is a solutions specialist with On Power Systems, the Quebec-based company that won SaskPower's tender to build the storage facility.
He said the company is looking forward to helping the Crown corporation hit its stated goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"With the net zero requirement from the government in being carbon neutral, it allows us to work with not only SaskPower, but also with everybody else locally in Saskatchewan to help … [move] toward our targets," Beliveau said.
Earlier this week, at the official opening of Saskatchewan's largest wind farm, acting SaskPower president Troy King said he expects the utility will meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
"Net zero is going to be a little bit trickier," King said.
"The biggest challenge we're going to have getting to net zero is finding non-emitting baseload power" — the minimum amount of energy the electrical grid needs, he said Tuesday.
"Wind and solar are great intermittent sources of power, they're great sources of energy, but they don't provide you with consistent baseload power."
He pointed to other sources, including battery storage, as the "types of technologies [that] are … promising to get us to that net zero."
The $26-million storage system being built in Regina will be the first of its kind in Saskatchewan.
Beliveau says this type of energy harnessing is still fairly new to Canada.
"It's one of those projects that obviously are not only required from a carbon-neutral standpoint, but also from a grid reliability standpoint," he said.
"During these economic times and climate changes, we're able to keep the lights on more often than not."
More resources needed
Beliveau says the planned facility is relatively small, given the province's energy demands, and a larger system will be needed to meet those needs.
"I think you'll start to see a lot of more of these projects come on board with not only SaskPower, but all the other large end users just in Saskatchewan as well, to really help with the great grid stability moving forward," he said.
The Regina project is still in the design stage, but some of the equipment is already under construction, Beliveau said.
"By the time we're all done, we're hoping to have it up and running by May of next year."
The project is being funded in part by the federal government, through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.