News and Events
Turbine testing takes a turn at college microgrid
February 19, 2020
The two SolarWind turbine prototypes located at Medicine Hat College (MHC) will start turning again later this month as testing for the new technology continues. The two turbines, which are now called Bluenergy SolarWind® PowerStations™ were developed by Bluenergy Solarwind Canada (BSWC) and installed on campus over the course of the past year for testing and learning purposes.
“The PowerStations will be involved in 80 hours of commissioning tests from now until the end of March. Members of the community can expect to see the turbines spinning, but there may also be some down time as adjustments are made following each test,” explains Tracy Stroud, manager of business development at MHC. She adds the testing will be done by BSWC and locally owned and operated Terralta.
The hybrid solar and wind structures are the first-of-a-kind, include battery storage, and are part of a larger innovation initiative at the college, known as the Community Renewable Energy Microgrid Demonstration Project (CREMDP). In addition to the turbines, the site also includes a solar canopy and electric vehicle charging station. The canopy produces energy that helps offset energy costs at the college and the charging station is a fee for service operation.
Community microgrids enable a new approach to energy generation and distribution. Rather than traditional utility-scale power generation and associated high-cost power distribution networks, a microgrid co-locates generation and use on a smaller scale, reducing costs.
With abundant natural solar and wind resources, and vast open rural areas, southeastern Alberta is an ideal location to explore alternative energy sources. However, as a relatively new sector in our region, there are limited opportunities for research, innovation, and training. This demonstration site provides a valuable testing environment for innovative ideas, which also support education and understanding on campus and in the community.
“Our microgrid offers a great learning opportunity for those interested in the technology from across southern Alberta, and we have had students from as far as Calgary come to the area to see the demonstration site. At the same time, our own students have access to these technologies and practical, hands-on experience with real-time data,” says Stroud.
Third year business administration student Jacob Lukasiewich says the two summers he spent working with the microgrid project provided him with a beneficial learning opportunity to expand his knowledge of renewable energy and other innovations.
“I learned all about electric vehicles and charging stations, as well as wind and solar power. I was also lucky enough to take part in planning an electric vehicle information seminar and a hemp and cannabis conference with MHC, which gave me valuable industry-related experience that will benefit me in my future endeavors,” says Lukasiewich.
This collaborative project was made possible with grant funding from the provincial government and Western Diversification, and support from key partners including the City of Medicine Hat, the APEX Regional Innovation Network, Bluenergy Solarwind Canada Inc., Terralta and ENMAX.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with so many partners on a project of this scale. It has been a valuable learning experience which has led to other opportunities, including the EBSCO solar project at our Brooks Campus and delivery of a solar commissioning course,” says Stroud. “This initiative demonstrates our region’s collective willingness to try new things as we look to the future.”