Researchers at CanmetENERGY collaborated with the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation in British Columbia’s Nemiah Valley to test the viability of a hybrid photovoltaic-diesel mini-grid to help reduce the community’s electricity costs. To achieve this, the partners first studied ways to improve the efficiency of the current genset and then installed a system of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.
The Nemiah Valley genset initially consisted of three 95-kW diesel generators, which supplied 22 homes and a commercial zone. However, like in most remote communities, the generators were oversized in comparison to the relatively low energy demands, leading to significant efficiency losses.
To avoid this loss of energy and the associated overconsumption of fuel, researchers at CanmetENERGY recommended replacing one of the three diesel generators with a smaller one. The new 30-kW generator now takes over at night and on weekends, eliminating non-critical loads in the commercial zone. After solving this deficiency issue in the existing diesel mini-grid, CanmetENERGY and the Xeni Gwet’in Nation added PV solar panels to help lower the community’s electricity costs and provide researchers with the opportunity to design and study a hybrid system for the first time. The 27.36 kW of PV installed represent approximately 36% of the grid’s peak load, and supplies 11% of the users’ yearly electricity needs.
A more efficient genset, combined with the addition of the PVs, have resulted in annual fuel savings averaging 26,000 litres – equivalent to a 25% reduction. These improvements also led to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 73 tonnes – equivalent to taking 21 cars off the road.
For more information about this project, see the article published in the Science @ NRCan section and the technical paper produced by the experts who worked on the project.
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