Energy storage may save chem valley plants money in long run

By Barbara Simpson, from  The Observer

When the Great Blackout of 2003 rolled across parts of North America, Sarnia’s refineries took a hit to their pocketbooks, losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue thanks to lost production.

However, organizers behind Sarnia-Lambton’s first energy storage conference say new technology offers hope in preventing such financial losses in the future.

“Even if it’s a momentary outage, it stops the (refining) process and they have to restart the plant,” said Tim Vanderheide, COO of Electek Power Services and Bluewater Power Generation. “If there’s a power outage, it costs each plant about $10 million, so (energy storage technologies) quickly becomes economically affordable when you’re looking at that kind of cost.”

Leading Ontario energy experts will be on hand to share some of the new technologies at the “Grid Resiliency Through Energy Storage in Southwestern Ontario” conference Nov. 20.

“Energy storage has been the holy grail of the energy industry,” said Vanderheide, who is also co-chair of the conference. “It’s something everyone has been talking about forever, but really within the last two to three years, the energy technologies have become cost effective.”

Some technologies include “power to gas” storage through converting electricity into hydrogen and compressed air storage using underground salt caverns.

In the future, local refineries could use these technologies to store the “wasted” energy generated during off-peak hours, Vanderheide noted. It could then be called upon during power outages.

“I don’t know if it’s quite cost effective to say we could run a plant on energy storage for more than eight hours at this time, but it is coming for sure,” he said.

Guest speakers include Cam Carver, chair of the Ontario Sustainability Energy Association and Professor Jatin Nathwani, executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy.

However, the conference isn’t only about linking local industry to energy storage solutions, said George Mallay, general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership.

“We’re also trying to pull out and showcase the energy industry we have in Lambton County,” he said.

The conference will be held at the Best Western Guildwood Inn from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 20. Visit  for more information.

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