By Alberto Mendoza-Galina

The Energy Storage System (ESS) is a $5 million project that will demonstrate the application of a unique system of lithium-ion batteries that will help regulate energy to the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF), the Fred Kaiser Building and the Michael Smith Laboratories at The University of British Columbia (UBC).

The ESS will provide uninterrupted power to these buildings as a first step in a broader smart grid project that is promising to spread through the entire campus, according to Iain Evans, manager Strategic Initiatives at UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI).

The ESS will be storing renewable energy produced at the BRDF, and both will keep equipment and building utilities running at their highest energy performance even potentially during power outages.

The ESS and the BRDF projects are great examples of UBC’s Campus as a Living Lab initiative (CLL), according to Andrew Collins, project manager at UBC Infrastructure Development. The main goal is to collaboratively develop and demonstrate technology on the campus that will help UBC advance as the global reference for sustainability research, development and demonstration, and achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets while providing operational benefits to the campus.

Collins explains that the driver's behind the projects are the integration between an industry need for demonstrating new technology, a UBC operational need and an ongoing opportunity for ground-breaking research coming together on a common ground provided by the CLL.

The ESS project will advance research in storage systems technology specifically dealing with storage integration, battery efficiency, its life cycle and re-use and recycling of the chemicals used in the power storage systems.

According to Collins the ESS project was first needed to provide critical energy to back up the BRDF in case of power outage. But when looking at the potential solutions the alternatives grew beyond the BRDF project, reaching into another initiative: The ‘smart-grid’.

The smart-grid will be feeding back information to the BRDF and the ESS on energy consumption from its users, according to José Martí, professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

Martí explains that the smart-grid is a sophisticated system that is monitoring in real time the energy consumption of equipment and buildings.  It will help make adjustments to provide an uninterrupted power supply while balancing the energy demand with the supply.

This is a great example of how one project can be tied into many.  This interconnection continues to grow, now including BC Hydro in the electrification of UBC’s vehicle fleet.

UBC is addressing sustainability while demonstrating and validating new technologies, “Issues around climate change require innovation” says Evans, arguing that sustainability is a massive opportunity for economic growth and an incentive to change.