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Saint John companies adapt to increased electricity demand

By Scott Pettigrew Jun 1, 2023 | 9:00 AM

Businesses in the Port City are making headway in the effort to move away from fossil fuel generation by 2050.

They’re beefing up electrical grids with state-of-the-art battery packs and adding more EV charging stations to meet growing demand.

“Much like we’re using storage today to manage how we serve demand at peak times, that will continue with these [Tesla battery Megapacks],” says Glen Fillmore, the executive director of strategic growth at Saint John Energy.

The Tesla Megapacks will be installed in 2024 at the utility’s Somerset substation and will store electricity from the new Burchill Wind Project.

This is not Saint John Energy’s first foray into Tesla battery storage. The 1.25-megawatt Millidgeville battery, which was the world’s first deployment of the Megapack, was delivered in late 2019 and installed by April 2020. It’s capable of powering 670 homes for two hours.

“With the additional capacity that we’re bringing on at the end of the year, an additional 5.8 megawatts, the combined capacity will be able to power 3,100 homes for the same two-hour duration. It’s quite significant.”

Fillmore says the stored energy in the batteries will be used to “beat the peak,” preventing extra energy sources like coal-fired electricity from having to step in and generate more. The move is in line with the utility’s announcement earlier this month about the plan to get to net zero in 2030.

“The energy storage is important to Burchill when renewable sources like wind are not always readily available,” Fillmore says. “[The batteries] allow us to be able to store the energy when the renewables are plentiful and use them when they’re not.”

“When the energy demand is high, we can dispatch that energy on our grid”.

Tesla will be responsible for the maintenance and operational support of the batteries, which are integrated with the smart grid system.

The funding for the Megapacks comes from the $50 million in federal funding for the Burchill Wind Project allocated in 2022. Fillmore says construction planning is already underway and may begin as early as July. The equipment itself should arrive later in 2023 and be up and running by early 2024.

“As there’s more of a transition towards net zero and customers choose to transition away from fossil fuel-based sources of heat… and the advent of EVs (electric vehicles) and what kind of [electricity demand] growth that’s going to drive over the next one…three…five…10 years, we do expect the demand for electricity to significantly increase,” Fillmore says.

Over at Saint John Nissan on Rothesay Avenue, dealership manager Andy He agrees that electric vehicles, and the infrastructure needed to power them, are becoming increasingly important.

“The reason we raised our hand to be an EV Nissan dealer is that we believe in electric vehicles,” He says.

He’s currently in the midst of a renovation to the dealership for a project that got underway in 2020 to prepare the dealership for the new Nissan Ariya, which is an electric SUV.

“We’re going to have four EV charging stations in our facility. Three Level 2 [charging stations] and one Level 3, which is the supercharge,” he says.

The charging stations will eventually be made available to all Steele Auto Group customers, with discussions about them possibly being made available to the public.

“The vision is for us to help the Government of New Brunswick, and the governments of Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland, to increase their infrastructure.”

He says with Steele’s more than 50 dealerships throughout Atlantic Canada, and with the goal of each one getting two to four charging stations, that would add a significant amount of options for people to charge their vehicles.

The dealership has also invested in training an EV licensed technician who is capable of working on many types of EVs, not just the ones sold at the dealership.

The renovations are expected to take four months, but in the meantime, the dealership will be one of a select few to showcase the new Ariya at its location on June 12.  The electric SUV is still in its initial rollout phase.

He says demand for electric vehicles is growing in Saint John and that he wants to be ready to meet customers’ future needs.

“It’s a huge investment and a commitment to our local community,” he says.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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