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Tesla's Megapacks will store power and help balance and provide reliability to the province’s power grid as more renewable electricity gets added.

Handout

Toronto-Dominion Bank’s asset-management arm is launching a project worth tens of millions of dollars to install arrays of Tesla batteries in Alberta, in what will be Canada’s largest use of the technology for energy storage.

WCSB Power Holdings, owned by TD Greystone Infrastructure Fund, is buying three sets of “Megapack” lithium-ion units from the company best known for its electric cars. The batteries will store power and help balance and provide reliability to the province’s power grid as more renewable electricity gets added. The project calls for a total of 60 megawatts of storage capacity.

The development, which it calls eReserve, follows other recent energy-storage projects in the province as it increases energy generation from wind and other renewables. Battery technology is seen as the linchpin that allows grids to gain more green electricity, which fluctuates with things such as varying wind speed and sunlight. Alberta’s major power generators, meanwhile, are in the midst of shifting away from coal-fired power, which puts more emphasis on renewables.

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The project fits with the clean-energy focus of TD Greystone, said Jeff Mouland, managing director and head of infrastructure for the unit of TD Asset Management, which runs the fund. It has assets in Canada, the United States and Europe, and 49 per cent of its holdings are in renewable energy.

“We are an active investor in green energy, sustainable energy, and that’s extremely important for us,” Mr. Mouland said. “So when we have an opportunity to go into a market and provide a service to that market with the concept of a green angle, we will do that.”

The plan calls for three 20 megawatt units, each with a footprint about the size of a hockey rink. The first is currently under construction in Rycroft, near Peace River in northern Alberta. It is scheduled to be in service in December. Installations in Buffalo Creek and Grande Prairie, also in northern Alberta, are scheduled to be built and tied into the grid by mid-2021. Calgary-based WCSB Power will own and manage the equipment for all three sites. TERIC Power Ltd. is designing and managing construction.

Mr. Mouland declined to give a price tag for the project, though comparable 10 MW installations have been in the $15-million to $16-million range.

Tesla made waves in utility-scale energy storage in 2017, when chief executive Elon Musk made a bet he could install a 100 MW battery system – the world’s largest – in South Australia in under 100 days or it would be free. He won the wager, delivering the Hornsdale Power Reserve ahead of schedule at a cost of US$50-million, and ending crippling blackouts in the region. It is now owned by French power producer Neoen SA, and was expanded by 50 per cent this year.

The eReserve project will be the largest battery storage development in Alberta, but not the first. In August, TransAlta Corp. began operations at its WindCharger project near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta. It too employs a Tesla Megapack, with capacity of 10 MW, at its Summerview wind farm.

It was built for about $16-million, with roughly half the cost covered by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), which is is funded by the provincial government’s levy on carbon from large industrial emitters.

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Enmax Corp., the city of Calgary’s electrical utility, announced last year that it was installing a GE Renewable Energy battery storage system at a gas-fired power plant at Crossfield, north of the city. The unit, part of a $14.5-million hybrid gas-turbine technology project, allows the plant to provide power from reserves without burning fuel, reducing emissions.

The Enmax venture was also partly funded by the ERA, though eReserve is being built without government subsidy, Mr. Mouland said. He added that the development promises a good return regardless.

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), which manages the province’s power grid, is developing an “energy storage roadmap” to deal with the adoption of more battery technology. AESO sees its benefits in allowing more renewables, deferring costs of long-distance transmission lines and adding power to the grid quickly when needed. The agency is working with the industry to come up with rules and regulations that fit the storage technology, spokesman Mike Deising said.

Mr. Mouland said TD will be looking to expand its use of battery storage globally when the Alberta project is completed. “Social and environmental pressures are starting to push the generation mix to more renewable generation,” he said. “Traditionally, that’s been wind and solar and hydro, and as technology has improved over the last couple years, battery storage and battery generation is becoming an increasingly large part of that story.”

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