Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

New microgrid research facility to spark energy innovation

Lab housed at new Productivity and Innovation Centre

NAIT researchers will help Alberta science and industry innovators develop and test low-carbon energy solutions with a new microgrid research facility, funded in part by a $2-million grant from the province.

The funding was announced Sept. 6 in part by Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous at NAIT’s new Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC).

The Distributed Energy Management Initiative (DEMI), a partnership between NAIT, ATCO, Siemens and researchers at the University of Alberta, will provide a microgrid, or local energy grid, where energy companies can develop, test and validate their technologies under realistic field conditions before scaling up to use the larger, traditional power grid.

“DEMI will help Alberta companies test and commercialize new products and processes to get them ready for the world market.”

“DEMI will help Alberta companies test and commercialize new products and processes to get them ready for the world market,” says Bilous.

Ultimately, the work will enhance energy efficiency, save consumers money, protect the environment and diversify Alberta’s economy, he adds.

portable power system

Researchers partner with industry

The microgrid lab, which will be housed in PIC, is a perfect fit for the new facility, says NAIT’s president and CEO, Glenn Feltham.

“Globally competitive enterprises embrace business innovation, particularly related to productivity. They adopt new technologies, and through applied research and product innovation, they ensure that products have a market. This is the role for NAIT’s Productivity and Innovation Centre.”

Large companies like ATCO and Siemens will partner with researchers and other innovators to develop and test new technologies.

“I am convinced that the solutions that we will jointly develop here will not only support and facilitate energy transition in Alberta, but we will be exporting these solutions in Canada and across the globe,” says Faisal Kazi, president and CEO of Siemens Canada.

The microgrid lab will help researchers and industry partners discover innovative technologies to generate, manage and store energy and reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, says Lauren Mercier, the NAIT research and innovation specialist helping to build the lab.

DEMI design teamSmall business solutions

Small businesses also hope to work with the NAIT lab. Growing Greener Innovations, a company that has developed a small, portable power system, plans to test and refine it with NAIT researchers, says its president, Connie Stacey. It could be used to power a rural home, an outdoor event, or medical equipment in an aid camp, for example.

The system can be expanded as needed like LEGO, without the need for a technician or electrician. Mercier says NAIT can help test the product under different weather conditions and scenarios, and provide resources that a small company wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. 

“This company is a great example of what we can do, working with small- and medium-sized enterprises to help them develop, validate and test their products,” says Mercier.

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