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The next big thing on campus: Toronto Hydro pilots utility-scale energy storage system at Ryerson

September 21, 2016

The project is located at Dundas and Mutual Streets in Toronto. Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko.

The Centre for Urban Energy (CUE) at Ryerson University has joined with Toronto Hydro to test a homegrown utility-scale battery system in the heart of the city, the first time this kind of research has been conducted in an urban setting.

The project’s goal is to demonstrate how off-peak electricity can be stored to help improve grid performance during outages, fix power quality issues and mitigate capacity constraints on the grid. Potential long-term benefits of the system may include the ability to harness more renewable energy such as wind and solar, thereby reducing stress on aging infrastructure and enhancing performance throughout Toronto’s grid.

The battery system was manufactured by Mississauga, Ontario-based Electrovaya.

The project provides CUE researchers and students with a unique, real-world learning opportunity in Toronto’s downtown core. CUE is located in the Merchandise Building, a mixed-use facility that is also home to a supermarket, apartments, offices and retail spaces. As such, it is an ideal setting for the pilot project due to the range of tenants and varying electricity needs. This mix allows for a greater scope of testing and real-life application of the battery system.

The battery system demonstrates the promise of energy storage on the Toronto Hydro grid. Potential benefits to Toronto residents and businesses could include improved system reliability, further integration of renewable energy sources and electric vehicle charging stations, as well as reduced usage during peak hours, leading to a cleaner and more cost-effective grid.

“Energy storage projects are a good option for meeting peak demand and improving reliability on our grid," said Jack Simpson, Director of Generation and Capacity Planning at Toronto Hydro. "We can store electricity off-peak when demand is low and then utilize that power when demand is high during on-peak periods, or even during short-term power outages.”

The project also delivers invaluable experience to Ryerson engineering students. "This project shows true collaboration with industry and academic researchers working hand in hand. It spans the full spectrum from knowledge creation to knowledge translation," said Thomas Duever, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science. “In working with Toronto Hydro, our students gain extremely valuable practical knowledge and experience that makes them highly employable.” 

FAQs

What is the purpose of this research?
The project’s goal is to demonstrate how off-peak electricity can be stored to help improve grid performance during situations of outages, power quality issues or capacity constraints on the grid. Potential long-term benefits of the system may include the ability to harness more renewable energy such as wind and solar, thereby reducing stress on an aging infrastructure and enhancing performance throughout Toronto’s grid.

Where will the energy storage system be located?
The storage system sits on the northwest corner of Dundas and Mutual Streets in downtown Toronto. It will be connected to CUE at 147 Dalhousie Street via overhead cables.

How does the technology work?
A storage system is a giant battery that can supply ancillary electricity to a building in the event of an outage, voltage sag or if a particular energy source is unable to meet demand. A system is made up of almost 5,400 individual lithium-ion battery cells and can provide up to 600kWh of electricity.

Why carry out this research downtown?
Toronto Hydro operates in a mature and congested environment where infrastructure is aging and mixed-use buildings are becoming the norm. Locating this project in downtown Toronto provides the researchers with a real-life testing ground.  The benefits of this type of storage system can ideally be utilized by buildings such as hospitals and other large customers across the city in the future.

What are some of the wider benefits of the technology?
Energy storage has been lauded as the next big thing in grid innovation because of its potential to solve some of the uncertainty and availability challenges associated with renewable energy. These systems also help improve grid performance and resilience by providing backup power when service is interrupted or when the system experiences a surge. The ability to store electricity during off-peak times for peak time usage could make it more cost-effective. The technology also has the potential to provide a cleaner alternative to the conventional diesel generators deployed by buildings such as hospitals in the event of a power outage.

Will this project cause any interruption to service?
No. Toronto Hydro customers in the area, including residents and tenants of the Merchandise Building, are unlikely to experience any interruption in their electricity service.

Just how large is the storage system?
The system is highly visible to passersby due to its size. The battery storage container is similar to a tractor trailer, measuring approximately 4m x 3m x 14 m (13’ x 10’ x 46’).

Is the system safe?
Yes. The lithium-ion SuperPolymer® 2.0 energy storage system includes multiple layers of safety design features and protective controls. The Intelligent Battery Management System (iBMS®) monitors every single battery cell to control and protect the energy storage system against potential failures. The energy storage system has been tested for quality assurance and safety and is ESA certified. The lithium ion battery cells are UL 1642 certified, which is the recognized highest safety standard for lithium batteries.

Is it environmentally-friendly?
The battery is non-toxic and produces zero emissions. Conventionally, lithium-ion batteries are manufactured with NMP, a toxic chemical that has shown to cause negative effects on human health. The lithium-ion SuperPolymer®2.0 batteries are manufactured by Mississauga-based Electrovaya, the only major lithium-ion battery manufacturer in the world that avoids using NMP.

What happens to the battery after this project finishes?
When the six-month pilot project ends, the battery will be returned to the manufacturer. The total shelf life of the system is 15 years, after which each individual battery cell will be recycled.

"Potential benefits to Toronto residents and businesses could include improved system reliability, further integration of renewable energy sources and electric vehicle charging stations, as well as reduced usage during peak hours, leading to a cleaner and more cost-effective grid."