Fossil heavyweight TransAlta Corporation has officially filed an application to build a 180-megawatt battery storage facility near one of its hydroelectric projects in Alberta.
Charged by TransAlta’s Ghost Reservoir hydro plant on the Bow River west of Cochrane, the proposed battery system will store electricity for use during periods of peak demand, CBC News reports.
“We’re taking that energy from the hydro facility, storing it until it’s needed, and putting it back on the grid at a later time,” said TransAlta project manager Chris Teare.
If it’s approved, the lithium-ion battery facility will be one of the largest in the province, with an expected cost of C$120 million. Responding to stakeholder concerns in a letter last month, Teare offered reassurances that safety and environmental issues like battery fires and leaks are top of mind for the company, with protections incorporating the latest safest designs and protocols.
To address the risk of contaminants leaking into the Bow River, Teare noted that “individual battery cells are fully sealed and further contained within the battery modules (sealed enclosures), minimizing the risk of a leak from the battery.”
As for fires, Teare explained that the batteries will be deliberately designed to sense a fire the moment it starts and contain it at the point of ignition, and they’ll also be constantly monitored.
Pembina Institute Clean Energy Director Binnu Jeyakumar stressed the relationship between battery storage and energy resilience.
“If the whole grid goes down, and you have a plant that’s attached to a battery, you can actually bring that plant back online, she told CBC.
Jeyakumar added that battery storage will be a necessary part of the effort to decarbonize electric power production. “We need to make sure we stop emitting carbon emissions from our grid. And so we need to see a whole bunch of different technological solutions,” and batteries “a really key component of that.”
TransAlta plans to install a further two gigawatts of renewable electricity by 2025, CBC writes. “That’s an estimated $3 billion of investment and will take our emissions down by 75% from 2015 levels,” said Chelsea Donelon, a senior advisor with the company’s carbon policy technology and strategy team.
TransAlta is expanding its investment in wind, currently 15.2% of its portfolio, and generates 936 MW of hydro in Canada, but also owns 1627 MW of gas plants around the world. While it pulled the plug sooner than planned on its Highvale coal mine, the company still holds 3311 MW of coal-fired capacity in Canada and 1340 MW in Washington state.