When the Southwestern Municipality and Town of Digby in Nova Scotia started looking into developing a Combined Heat and Power Plant, it discovered a lack of grid capacity which has sent it in a bold new direction. “We engaged Lockheed Martin to give us a view on the feasibility of a CHP plant and one of the things that came out is the grid capacity is not in place,” says Terry Thibodeau, Renewable Energy Climate Change Co-Ordinator for the District of Digby.
The area is serviced by Nova Scotia Power via a 69 kV transmission line which is already operating at 110% and the distribution capacity is so low it can’t accept another 2.5 MW of power. There are rare times now, after a heavy rainfall, when the 30 MW wind farm in the area is curtailed in favor of a hydro dam which also supplies electricity to the local market. This made it clear that the community could not move forward with its project under the province’s Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) without improvements to the grid.
When Nova Scotia Power Inc., the local utility, didn’t include Digby in its application for grid upgrades investments shortly thereafter, Thibodeau contacted the Utility and Review Board of Nova Scotia (UARB). This led to meetings with Nova Scotia Power’s CEO Rob Bennett. The result is that the municipality is now in discussions with NSPI and energy storage providers to pilot projects in the area. Digby is looking at flywheel technology among others and smart grid options to improve grid capacity and storage capabilities. “This is an opportunity to look back at our CHP plant by looking to first improve our grid capacity,” says Thibodeau. “We need all our ducks in order infrastructure-wise to be able to move forward with developing our renewable energy resources.”
This Southwestern community has tremendous wind and in-stream tidal resources. “We would like to develop our tidal capabilities and become a service area for the Bay of Fundy but we need a way to get the power to the grid first,” Thibodeau points. By working with the utility, Digby is taking an innovative approach to renewables development which will undoubtedly be replicated in other provinces where storage and connection is a serious challenge for the renewables industry. This may also be a way for the utility to avoid costly upgrades, notes Thibodeau.
“We haven’t ruled out those upgrades but we have the utility at the table – we wouldn’t be able to do this without their blessing,” he adds. “We would rather work in close collaboration with the utility rather than have them as perceived as being the bad-guy.”
As more and more IPPs struggle with curtailment issues and grid capacity constraints, this approach of working to solve capacity issues first may become the norm. Thibodeau feels encouraged by this opportunity to collaborate with NSPI. “When you are told there is no capacity and you have these enormous renewable energy resources that you can’t do anything with, you have to build a new way of dealing with energy,” he says.
This September, Thibodeau will be providing more details on Digby’s strategy at the Nova Scotia Feed-in Tariff Forum 2012 which takes place on the 24-25 in Halifax www.nsfit2012.com. He will be joined by COMFIT owners, IPPs and suppliers to discuss the opportunities for renewables under the province’s COMFIT and RFP programs as well as the next steps for renewables in Atlantic Canada.
Adrienne Baker is a Director of Canadian Clean Energy Conferences and producer of the Nova Scotia Feed-In Tariff Forum (Sept 24-25, Halifax).
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.
To add your comments you must sign-in or create a free account.