Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

New microgrid research facility to spark energy innovation

Centre for Grid Innovation 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, bolstered by almost $4 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments.

The federal contribution, totalling almost $1.9 million, was announced April 25 by Randy Boissonnault, MP for Edmonton Centre at an event showcasing the new Centre for Grid Innovation in NAIT’s Productivity and Innovation Centre. An earlier grant of almost $2 million from the Alberta government was announced in September, 2018.

The new centre is a partnership between NAIT, ATCO, Siemens and researchers at the University of Alberta. It will house 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.

“The Centre for Grid Innovation will help companies develop important technologies that could transform the electricity industry in Western Canada and beyond.”

“This investment will help bolster our competitive edge,” said Boissonnault. “The Centre for Grid Innovation will help companies develop important technologies that could transform the electricity industry in Western Canada and beyond.”

portable power system

Researchers partner with industry

The microgrid lab is a perfect fit for NAIT’s new innovation facility, said NAIT’s president and CEO, Dr. 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,” said 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, said 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 centre. Growing Greener Innovations, a company that has developed a small, portable power system, plans to test and refine it with NAIT researchers, said 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,” said Mercier.


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