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Saint John Energy adding money-saving battery power to its energy grid

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Saint John Energy is adding battery power to its grid. The utility says the battery power will lead to fewer greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Tim Roszell has more. – Jan 6, 2020

Tucked in, at the back of the Millidgeville Substation in Saint John’s north end, is a Tesla lithium-ion Megapack battery.

It was constructed in Nevada and was delivered on Dec. 20, 2019. It weighs nearly 51,000 lbs.

It can power more than one hundred homes for two hours, if necessary, according to Andrew Ahearn, the manager of engineering for Saint John Energy.

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But Ahearn said it will be used for “peak shaving.”

“During times of the month where the whole system is peaking we’ll be putting this battery on and that will actually save Saint John Energy money,” Ahearn began. “And will actually save on some greenhouse gases, as other generating plants won’t have to use their fuel as much.”

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Ahearn said peak times around 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., usually when families are either getting ready for work or school, or when they are preparing an evening meal.

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He said the cost savings will come from not having to buy extra energy from NB Power to cover peak demand, instead using its own battery power.

Saint John Energy estimates it could save up to $200,000 annually by using the battery, meaning the savings could offset the cost of integrating the battery into the system in about seven-and-a-half years.

Ahearn said he expects the battery to have a shelf life of about 15 years.

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“The goal is to prove this technology is going to work and save on some funding and some greenhouse gases and things like that,” he said. “And so if we can prove it can work then maybe we’ll purchase some more in the future.”

The project has a big supporter in Graeme Stewart-Robertson of ACAP Saint John, a community-based environmental organization.

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“I think it’s an incredibly exciting development for the city of Saint John, for Saint John Energy to be taking not only an active role in building resiliency within our community, but taking an action which helps mitigate some of the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel emissions here in the city of Saint John and the surrounding areas.”

A representative from Tesla is expected to be in Saint John next week to examine the unit and make sure it didn’t encounter any problems during transit, and also perform what Ahearn called “early commissioning activities.”

If all goes well, Ahearn believes the project could be online in March.

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