Tesla Megapack batteries are about to make a notable and symbolic impact in Canada’s fossil fuel province, with Calgary-based TransAlta Corp. expected to flip the switch on Alberta’s first utility-scale battery storage installation. Known as the WindCharger project, the initiative involves using Tesla Megapack batteries to store electricity from the nearby Summerview wind farm and discharge it to the grid as needed.
The WindCharger project’s Tesla Megapack batteries are capable of distributing 10 MW and provide up to 20 MWh of storage capacity. The initiative cost about CAD 16 million to build, though it was also the recipient of a CAD 7.7-million grant from Emissions Reduction Alberta, which aims to determine if emerging sustainable technologies could be used on a commercial scale.
According to executives from Alberta’s largest power generator, the WindCharger project has massive potential. If the Megapack batteries and wind farm combination proves successful, it could be a legitimate “game-changer” for the country’s power industry. It could even crush the long-standing criticism of renewables which argues that solar and wind are not viable because the systems are compromised when the sun is not shining or when the wind is not blowing.
Quite remarkably, the Tesla Megapack batteries were installed rather quickly. Construction on the WindCharger project began this spring and the batteries are expected to go live later this month. This is quite impressive, especially considering the presence of the pandemic. John Kousinioris, TransAlta’s chief operating officer, expressed his optimism in a statement to The Vancouver Sun.
“It is really cool. It was put together in a matter of months, in terms of construction. It was great when we saw the batteries coming up from Tesla and in place. It’s an opportunity for us to match storage and our renewable wind power generation. When the wind is blowing or prices are really low, what we will do is take power from the wind farm to actually charge up the batteries. We charge them up and wait until they’re needed from a value proposition, and then we discharge them,” he said.
According to Sam Huntington, an associate director of energy storage with IHS Markit, battery storage projects like the WindCharger in Alberta are taking off as the energy industry leverages advancements currently being made in the electric vehicle sector. Amidst the rise of electric cars like Teslas, for example, battery prices continue to decline. These innovations could then be applied to grid storage installations.
“Grid batteries are really riding the coattails of the electric vehicle boom, so that is bringing costs way down and leading to a lot of innovation. We are about to hit this big boom and all these batteries will come on to the grid. We will learn a lot more about the economics of the projects,” Huntington said.
In a way, the installation of Tesla Megapacks in Alberta is a symbolic win for renewables in the country. Apart from having the potential to crush anti-sustainability FUD, the batteries also mark the territory of sustainable solutions in a location that’s widely considered as Canada’s fossil fuel province. Alberta, after all, is Canada’s largest oil and natural gas producer, being home to a significant part of the country’s remaining conventional oil reserves and oil sands.