Off Grid Town Pilots Energy Storage

Way up in rural British Columbia, far from the grid, diesel generators provide much of the power. Now, in the town of Bella Coola, something called Hydrogen Assisted Renewable Power (HARP) is set to offset those generators, curbing the community’s annual diesel consumption by 200,000 liters (52,834 gallons) and lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 600 tons annually.

According to General Electric Energy, Bella Coola’s location–about 400 kilometres (248 miles) north of Vancouver–means that it’s not connected to BC Hydro’s provincial electricity grid, and has been reliant on diesel generators and a run-of-river power facility with no storage capacity. By using the HARP system, Bella Coola will be able to significantly increase the power they’re able to use from their local hydro facility, reducing its dependence on diesel generators. GE’s microgrid controller automatically responds to changes in supply and demand, which will ensure that energy generated by the facility is managed efficiently for consistent output.

Bella Coola

image via Sustainable Development Technology Canada

HARP is described as being designed to store excess electricity generated at a local small hydropower facility by either producing hydrogen or directly charging a flow battery. In the first method, according to Sustainable Development Technology Canada, “hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, which is then stored as gas in high pressure tanks. During the peak periods the stored hydrogen is fed into a 100 kilowatt fuel cell to generate electricity.” In the second method “an electrochemical regenerative fuel cell, known as the flow battery, to store the energy. This flow battery is then capable of providing 125 kilowatt of electricity directly to the community.”

“GE’s smart grid technologies are designed to help solve the world’s toughest energy challenges,” said Larry Sollecito, vice president, smart grid for GE’s Digital Energy business, in a statement. “With our microgrid control solution powering the HARP system, we’re able to make sustainability a reality. We applaud Bella Coola for embracing innovation and being a model for remote communities around the globe.”  The project is a partnership between BC Hydro, GE and Powertech and is supported by the province of B.C. and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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