Smart energy community moves ahead in New Brunswick
The picturesque town of Shediac is the testing ground for new smart-energy technologies that will help lay the groundwork for a modernized power grid and a low-carbon, energy-efficient future in New Brunswick.
The Shediac Smart Energy Community Project, developed by NB Power and Siemens Canada, is part of a four-year federally funded research and demonstration program that is the first of its kind in the province. The National Research Council of Canada is a project research partner.
The project is aimed at determining how new smart-energy technologies can provide customer, community and provincial benefits while reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s all about rolling out the future of energy, the future of electricity, in a community that is partnering with us, and participating in research to help us understand how to deploy these technologies and programs, and help customers understand how to optimize them to save energy,” says Brent Staeben, director of Smart Grid Atlantic at NB Power.
“It’s really a testing ground for us as a company and for our customers to better understand how we can ease our way into this new energy future.”
It has been just over a year since the Strategic Innovation Fund and Natural Resources Canada announced nearly $18 million in federal government funding for the Shediac project. While work is currently underway in the town, COVID-19 has slowed progress and likely will add time to the overall project, Staeben said in an interview.
The Shediac Smart Energy Community Project consists of three elements.
First, the residential smart-energy study involves more than 500 homes in the community where new smart-energy technologies will be tested. The technologies include such things as smart thermostats, solar rooftop generation, smart water heaters, next-gen heat pumps and in-home battery storage. The utility will also focus on potential cybersecurity issues posed by these connected devices and test varying rate schemes enabled by the technologies.
Second, two commercial buildings in Shediac – the Town’s Multipurpose Centre and the Federal Pension Centre – will be converted into net-zero buildings. The smart-energy technologies to be used will include solar panels and battery storage. Staeben said the goal is to lower the buildings’ energy use, while also adding clean energy sources to provide a new level of self-sufficiency.
Third, a new community solar farm is being constructed within town limits. It will be NB Power’s first utility-scale solar facility and will include utility-scale battery storage capacity as well. The facility will be connected to the distribution grid in Shediac and provide clean electricity to help make the commercial buildings net-zero with any extra renewable energy from the farm flowing to the community and residents.
The Shediac project also serves as the foundation for a new Energy Systems Platform being developed by Siemens’ Global Smart Grid Centre in Fredericton. This new cloud-based system will help NB Power connect directly with the smart-energy technologies so customers can participate in programs that benefit them.
“With the expected adoption of household-owned and community-based renewable energy sources, we want to be prepared to integrate those and help the homeowner maximize them for their benefit and for the utility’s benefit,” Staeben said.
He said the Energy System Platform will become a new product that utilities around the world can use to help manage the significant complexities of integrating these new smart-energy technologies into local neighbourhood grids.