Image Credit: C. Penner Polle
Image Credit: C. Penner Polle

Two major Ontario based utility companies signed an agreement to enable access to a new residential solar+storage technology called the Power.House. The Power.House technology is a streamlined systematic process that will allow their customers to produce and store or backup electric power depending on each customer’s preference.

The production of electric power will involve using solar panels, then the technology will help them either backup some of this power to a battery system for storage or feedback some to the grid. The unique thing about this technology is the flexibility as it will give customers the ability to control the entire process through a software management system.

PowerStream signed the partnership agreement with Thunder Bay Hydro to allow both parties to further take advantage of a technology that PowerStream has already been piloting in its service territory since March of this year. Both parties announced in a press release that the Power.House technology can and will aggregate a fleet of residential solar and battery storage systems to form a Virtual Power Plant (VPP).

To drop in a background perceptive, PowerStream is a jointly owned community energy company that provides power and related services to more than 380,000 customers north of Toronto and in Central Ontario. Thunder Bay Hydro, is an electricity distribution, generation and utility services group of companies serving Thunder Bay and area.

“As a progressive, forward-thinking utility, we are seeking to implement technologies that may benefit our customers,” said Robert Mace, President, Thunder Bay Hydro. “By entering into this partnership with a like-minded utility, we are able to leverage the experience, lessons learned and proven technology of PowerStream. This puts us several steps ahead of the market to offer our customers different supply options for their electricity service.”

There is an atmosphere of increasing interest in energy storage technologies—specifically with residential solar+storage technology—within the energy industry, and with Ontario customers.

“Our expansion of the Power.House initiative to other areas of the province through partnerships with other electricity distribution companies like Thunder Bay Hydro is the logical next step in our efforts to broaden the use of this technology,” explained Maurizio Bevilacqua, PowerStream Board Chair, and City of Vaughan Mayor. “It also demonstrates our commitment to providing electricity customers with more energy choices within a sustainability framework that helps to protect the environment.”

In order to bring the Power.House program to light, PowerStream is using a Lithium-ion technology based battery storage and energy management system (EMS) for its pilots.

While there are concerns surrounding the safety and maintenance of incorporated Lithium-ion technology for long-duration energy storage applications, they are popular for their high energy storage capacity.

Using new and existing technologies to store electricity is an increasingly important and visible issue in the energy industry. It’s no surprise that energy storage has been referred to by many commentators as a “game changer,” as it will greatly improve the efficient use of electricity resources (generation, transmission, distribution).

The Huffington Post recently declared in an article that Ontario is leading the way in deploying energy storage systems in the field. Notably citing an energy storage pilot project with Oshawa Power and its partners.

A statement from IESO’s March 2016 Energy Storage report added that energy storage facilities can provide a wide range of services needed to reliably operate the power system in Ontario including regulation, voltage control, operating reserve, and flexibility. Energy storage could also help improve the utilization of existing transmission and distribution assets by deferring some costs associated with their upgrades or refurbishments, as well as improve the quality of electricity supply in certain areas of the system by controlling local voltages.

“Ontario government’s recently introduced Climate Change Action Plan is expected to serve as a catalyst for developing, marketing and adopting new energy technologies, including energy storage,” Mark Henderson, PowerStream’s EVP Asset Management, and COO said in a statement to pvbuzz media. “Our residential solar+storage initiative we refer to as Power.House, is unique in that we use software programming to combine energy storage with solar generation to create a virtual power plant by networking these assets from multiple residential locations.”

When natural disasters such as strong icy storm strikes, power lines become very vulnerable to falling ice or tree branches from the weight of the ice. This leaves residential areas vulnerable to power outages.

This is just one of the may reasons why energy storage technologies can help provide much-needed backup power until the power grid gets back online.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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  1. In addition to all the utility projects that will be under the new net metering interconnection agreements and challenges, there are systems that can provide all the renewables and storage without the need to use the GRID for storage. A variety of lead acid batteries are available for low cost storage. Technologies like the Transverter that combines the inverter and charger allow for having your own renewable energy and resilience package.

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