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Qulliq studies ways to reduce diesel use

Qulliq Energy Corporation is looking for affordable ways to reduce diesel use and an Ontario-based company is trying to prove its variable-speed generators are the answer.

This variable-speed generator has been installed in Aklavik, NWT, to demonstrate its efficiency and its ability to hold up in the frigid Northern climate. Innovus Power, based in Peterborough, Ont., is vying to supply a test unit for the Iqaluit power plant and, further in the future, to install variable-speed generators across the North. photo courtesy of Northwest Territories Power Corporation

Innovus Power boasts a recent University of Waterloo study focused specifically on servicing the needs of Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, Arviat, Iqaluit, Sanikiluaq and Sachs Harbour that shows its generators, combined with renewable energy sources, can reduce diesel consumption by 53 to 83 per cent and emissions by 60 to 89 per cent.

QEC has reviewed a couple of studies, including a one-year variable-speed generator simulation in Baker Lake in 2016, and has determined that variable-speed generators "may deliver increased fuel efficiency, operational cost savings and longer service life," stated QEC president and CEO Bruno Pereira. He added that the estimated cost of a one megawatt variable-speed generator would be approximately $2.5 million dollars, comparable to a fixed-speed generator.

The power corporation is seeking federal funding for a pilot project to install and test a variable-speed generator in Iqaluit. The outcome would help QEC decide whether the technology makes sense for Nunavut, according to Pereira.

Paul Pauzé, vice-president of business development and sales with Innovus Power, wants his company to provide that variable-speed generator.

"It's time we tried this. It really does make sense," Pauzé said. "We think there's going to be a huge change over the next few years in this space, for sure."

To demonstrate that its technology is suited to the harsh Northern climate, Innovus has recently installed one of its units in Aklavik, NWT, in partnership with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. There are many entities watching for performance data from that test site, Pauzé acknowledged.

"We knew our product would end up up North," he said. "It's extremely efficient and it's been designed for the far North."

Unlike the car industry, the power generation industry hasn't revolutionized over 125 years, continuing to used generators that spin at the same speed, which is inefficient, Pauzé explained.

"We call it the blind spot," he said. "There's some real difficulties in terms of managing varying loads with a synchronous or fixed-speed generator."

Fixed-speed generators are also very limited in incorporating renewable energies, maxing out at 20 per cent use of solar or wind power, for example, Pauzé said. Further complicating matters, smaller scale renewable energy systems are more expensive, making them less financially appealing, he added.

Conversely, variable-speed generators can allow for up to 100 per cent renewable power sources, said Pauzé, adding that battery technology for power storage is also available and it's expected to become more efficient and affordable in the future.

Claudio Cañizares, one of the researchers at the University of Waterloo, stated, "I strongly believe that Innovus technologies should be seriously considered for deployment in Northern communities, since these would facilitate the reliable greening up of existing diesel-based electrical grids at significant savings with respect to other current options."