Battery Energy Storage Systems: A Fast Growing Eco-Technology

May 19, 2023

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The message to Windsor City Council in 2022 was clear. Be prepared to respond to requests from energy generators and storage providers because municipalities will be asked to play a critical role in the development of local energy resources in the energy transition. Picton, Ontario recently learned this when they were approached to build a utility-scale battery storage facility on agricultural land. Tamworth has been identified for a similar facility.

Naturally, local residents have questions. Speaking with a mother who lives close to the proposed Tamworth location, she gets the benefits of the facility but still wants to understand the potential risks to her family and what plans and systems will be put in place to mitigate them. Fair enough. 

In addition to identifying opportunities to reduce energy consumption, emissions and costs, community energy planning can help a community prepare for the energy transition and get ahead of requests like these. 

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) recently announced the largest procurement of storage capacity in Canada so more are on the way raising similar concerns in other communities. 

Community energy planning is not simply an urban exercise. Renewable energy projects have an impact on the landscape – much more so than the infrastructure supporting centralized systems for electricity and natural gas. Land-use trade offs will need to be managed – like the tradeoff between agricultural land and a battery storage facility in Picton. 

Municipalities need data to engage effectively in IESO regional electricity planning consultations if they want to ensure local needs and priorities are respected. A coordinated approach across municipalities in a region would be even more effective.

QUEST has been helping communities map opportunities for solar, wind and biomass so they can be better prepared to respond to the market. This work has helped communities answer questions like: 

  • How much land, and what kind of land, will be needed to power a sustainable energy future? 
  • Can we allocate significant tracts of land to renewable energy production and still ensure that our local landscapes continue to provide food, habitat, spaces for recreation, and other land-based economies and ecosystem services? 
  • How are these land-use tradeoffs perceived by the public? 
  • How will changing technologies mitigate or exacerbate these issues? 
  • How should our existing land-use planning systems evolve to help manage these trade-offs? 

An additional benefit of these exercises is community members become better educated about renewable energy technologies – the opportunities and the risks.

The energy transition has the potential to be a new source of rural jobs in addition to addressing environment and energy security concerns. The opportunity to support local economic development is significant. While attractive for rural economies, this has to be balanced with other community values or we will read more media reports where residents are concerned about the risks associated with renewable energy projects and the potential impact on their homes.

We know why we need to embrace the energy transition – to reverse climate change. Both rural and urban communities have an important role to play. 

Increasingly, we better understand what we need to do to reduce emissions. Battery electric storage systems help facilitate the displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy. They will allow surplus energy generated when the winds blow and the sun shines to be stored as chemical potential energy for when it is needed. 

However, how we get there – reasonably smoothly or with considerable disruption – is still not clear.  

Energy conscious communities will have a leg up in the energy transition. The market will also benefit.