The First Canadian Smart Remote Microgrid: Hartley Bay, BC

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Author: Tarek EL-Fouly, Natural Resources Canada

CETC number: 2013-035

Publication date: 2013-12-11


There are 292 remote communities in Canada, many of which rely on diesel for electricity generation and subsequently have high costs of electricity (up to 10 times compared to the main electric grid), mostly due to the cost of fuel transportation and delivery. Moreover, fuel costs are also volatile, difficult to forecast, and likely to increase. These high costs drain financial resources which could otherwise be allocated to other priority areas. Since many remote communities are growing rapidly and building construction is expanding, new electrical infrastructure is becoming necessary. This provides opportunities to include or increase renewable energy supply in communities, and to ensure that new buildings are designed to reduce demand and facilitate the integration of renewables on the grid. However, it is difficult to convince these remote communities to integrate high penetrations of intermittent renewable generation because of its past inability to economically offset diesel consumption. Recently, with the revolution of smart grid technology (smart controls and advanced metering and monitoring), it is possible to quantify the full potential of renewables and bring real cost savings to these communities. In communities like Hartley Bay, a smart grid with demand response will play a crucial role in maximizing the use of renewables.

The Village of Hartley Bay, located approximately 650 km North West of Vancouver, BC, is a remote, off­-grid coastal community in the Gitga’at Nation. The community is home to 170 residents living in 82 buildings: 62 residential and 20 commercial/mixed‐use. There are three generators supplying the electricity to Hartley Bay: two 420 kW and one 210 kW. The system consists of a 600 V bus at the generators which is stepped up to 25 kV for distribution (approximately 2 km of lines) and stepped down to 120/240/208 V for residential and commercial single and three phase loads with 25 kVA and 50 KVA transformers. The community has historically used up to 2 GWh of electric energy annually at a levelized cost of approx. $0.67 per kWh. The current generation setup had cost the band upwards of $500,000 per year. The community is now operating a smart microgrid system and is interested in finding additional, innovative ways to improve the efficiency of the generation system that will in turn reduce the community’s electrical demand, energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and costs.

For more information about Natural Resources Canada’s activities related to microgrids, visit the Smart Grid section of the website.