At its meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 25, 2023, the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee received a presentation from Potentia Renewables Inc., the Toronto-based company behind the new Quinte Energy Storage Centre project (Quinte ESC), which will be located in Greater Napanee.
According to Jonathan Bitoun, Manager of Project Development at Potentia, the Quinte ESC is a “reliable large-scale, emissions-free energy storage solution that is being developed to support the energy transition and the emerging capacity gaps and needs in Ontario.”
Bitoun made a presentation to introduce the company, its partners, the proposed project and the technology behind it, and some of the benefits this project can bring to the region and into the grid. The project already has the support of Utilities Kingston and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
Potentia, Bitoun said, is a 100 per cent Canadian independent power producer, headquartered here in Ontario with a mission to safely and sustainably develop, construct, own, and operate renewable energy and storage assets within North America.
Shaheer Aziz, Senior Director of Business Development at Hydrostor, next provided information about his Toronto-based company. Hydrostor is about 12 years old and focused on two efforts: the development of a technology called advanced compressed air energy storage (A-CAES) and the development of energy storage projects around the world, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.
“Using our compressed air energy storage technology, we focus on something called long-duration storage, which is really an energy storage solution that lasts for about eight hours,” said Aziz. “We essentially take air when power is cheap; we compress it underground into a cavern; and when power is expensive we let that air out of that cavern to generate electricity. This process is emissions-free and can be sited where it’s actually needed by the electricity grid.”
Compressed air energy storage (CAES) has actually been around since the 1970s. According to Aziz, the concept of taking air and storing it underground and reusing it has been around for many years. But the traditional application of that technology, which was done in Germany as well as in Alabama previously, has two limitations: the project can only be located where there are salt caverns underground, and CAES requires the burning of natural gas, “which is essentially emissions.”
With Hydrostor’s A-CAES technology, he said, “Our company was able to perfect this process in which we capture the heat and then reuse that heat so that you no longer need to burn natural gas, and this becomes an emissions-free process… [And] we don’t need salt caverns because we’ve taken a process from the hydrocarbon space and the oil and gas industry on how they build underground caverns out of hard rock and use that to store the air.”
Aziz explained that A-CAES takes electricity from the grid and uses a compressor to compress the air underground. While that air is being compressed, the heat from that air is captured in heat storage tanks and stored there for when the time comes to expand the air.
Using the diagram below, Aziz explained, “The air actually pushes down the air shaft and pushes the water out, and the water holds the pressure and something we call ‘hydrostatic compensation.’ Then, when the power is needed, we switch a valve and the water pushes the air down, and the air then gets that heat that was captured previously and runs to the turbine. So through this, we’re able to produce a long-duration energy storage system using just rock, air, and water, which is an environmentally friendly, emissions-free solution to provide long-duration dispatchable capacity.”
Aziz explained the benefits of having a system like this. Currently, as Ontario attempts to move toward net zero emissions, the electricity system includes the integration of renewables like solar and wind energy into our grid.
“We sometimes have a lot of baseload nuclear [electricity] in our province. That electricity can be captured when we don’t need it and stored for long periods of time and then deployed. So, what that allows us to do with our long-duration system is to take that intermittent power and turn it into dispatchable capacity. And Ontario today, as you may have seen recorded by the ISO [International Organization for Standardization], has a need for dispatchable capacity going into the 2030s and beyond,” he continued.
“Compare us to, for example, lithium-ion batteries, which are also a great solution for a different set of problems. They’re really good when it comes to that shorter duration, that [two to four] hours — whereas [A-CAES] can really kick in for that longer application. In certain instances, for example, such as our project in Broken Hill, Australia, we can also offer an alternative to transmission lines.”
The Quinte ESC is located on an approximately 170-acre property near the Lennox Generating Station, said Aziz, “This is a strategically important location within Ontario’s current transmission network, easily allowing the flow of electricity west or eastwards to fill the emerging capacity gap within Ontario.”
Studies already completed have shown no environmental concerns that cannot be addressed through standard permitting processes, Bitoun said. There is a plan to hold an open house in the coming months, followed by an agricultural impact assessment that will be completed before the end of this year. Over the course of 2024 and 2025, the project expects to carry out critical feasibility studies, including class environmental assessments, geotechnical studies, and hydrogeology and hydrology studies, among others. In addition, the project plans on securing all necessary permits, licences, and approvals over the course of those two years, with a goal of initiating construction by 2026.
The construction phase will last three to four years (2026 to 2029), with a target commercial operation date of 2030.
“We will close things off [tonight] by providing a bit of an overview of the benefits the project will bring,” detailed Bitoun. “This is a large-scale development which will ultimately support over $1.4 billion in [Gross Domestic Product] over the course of the construction process.” The project is expected to employ over 600 people during construction, “while also supporting a large number of indirect and induced jobs, currently estimated to be approximately 2,000 full-time equivalents.”
During operations, Bitoun said, the project will directly include 40 workers, while also supporting additional numbers through around 195 indirect and induced jobs. The project is directly aligned with Canada’s and Ontario’s Net-Zero Emissions goals and will provide critical emissions-free capacity and reliability as fossil fuel resources are retired and additional non-emitting resources get brought onto the grid, such as nuclear, wind, or solar. The project is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 90,000 tonnes per year, Bitoun stated.