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Nelson Hydro proposes battery storage project

Nelson Hydro is applying for a grant to build a battery storage system on the North Shore, which it hopes will reduce peak demand and improve reliability.

“When we looked at all of our options for reducing that peak load, battery storage was one of the more attractive options from a cost-effectiveness and impact [perspective] but it is still expensive,” says general manager Scott Spencer.

The project would let Nelson Hydro charge the system during off-peak hours and feed the energy back into the grid during peak loads. They say the system would operate year-round, but would be particularly important during cold snaps like the ones that occurred in February and December 2021. During those periods, Nelson Hydro buys extra power from FortisBC.

Spencer says the system would smooth out the peaks and reduce the cost of purchased lower, keeping rates lower.

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The utility will apply for funding that combines a federal grant with provincial CleanBC funds that would cover nearly three quarters of the project costs. The initial estimate was around $10 million, but Spencer says supply chain issues may push costs higher. The grant, which is targeted at municipalities looking to manage renewable energy capacity, has a limit of $13.5-million.

“Our project fits exactly in with the criteria,” Spencer says. “We’re optimistic we’ll be successful in achieving this grant and bringing in some new technology that will make a big difference to our customers.”

Spencer says the North Shore, between the city and Coffee Creek, has traditionally suffered from worse reliability than the rest of the service area because it’s heavily treed and often affected by windstorms.

Having an alternate power source in that area will allow them to reduce the number of customers affected by outages and the length of time the power is out while they work on the system, he says.

Spencer says they’ve been looking at building a new substation to replace the one at Six Mile for a number of years, and have included it in their five-year capital plan. Planning in earnest is expected to get underway next year, and the battery storage project would tie into it.

The CleanBC grant application is due May 25. Project approvals are expected in September 2023.

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