With the increase of intermittent generation in our electricity grid, including wind and solar, there comes a much greater need for flexibility for our electric utilities and electricity system operators.

MaRS client ENBALA Power Networks has developed a solution that helps commercial, industrial and institutional electricity users earn new revenue streams, while making the electricity system more reliable.

Last week at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the company debuted its Grid Balance initiative with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). Grid Balance uses ENBALA’s GOFlex platform, a real-time demand management system, to help Ontario commercial and industrial facilities time-shift their power usage.

GOFlex—which stands for “grid operational flexibility”—continuously responds to moment-to-moment fluctuations of electricity grid demand by communicating with ENBALA’s network of large electricity users. It receives real-time requests from IESO to help keep generation and demand in balance. Watch this video for a summary of the process.

GOFlex platform

GOFlex is the first intelligent load management project of its type in Ontario. The environmental benefits of this significant increase in energy efficiency are substantial: the Bloom Centre for Sustainability (formerly the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement) estimates that for every 100 megawatts of Grid Balance delivered through the GOFlex, greenhouse gases are reduced by 550,000 tonnes, smog-related emissions are lowered by 3,800 tonnes and $3 million is saved in health impacts through decreased air pollution.

Sunnybrook is one of the first participants in the Grid Balance initiative. The hospital’s central chiller plant provides the water used to service the comfort cooling system during the warmer months of the year. Five chillers are connected to GOFlex through the hospital’s existing automated building control system (BCS). Based on current cooling needs at Sunnybrook, ENBALA then sends a signal to the hospital’s BCS to adjust power usage, without having any noticeable effect on space temperature or patients throughout the building. The adjustment also remains within set operating parameters.

Several other Ontario organizations and their electrical loads (energy-consuming equipment) are taking part in the initiative, including McMaster University, Confederation Freezers (a refrigerated warehousing company), Collingwood Public Utilities (a water pollution control facility), Atlantic Packaging (a sustainable packaging company) and Walmart.

ENBALA already has operations underway in the United States and in Eastern Canada, and has been active in the PJM Interconnection market, the largest integrated electricity market in the world, covering all or part of 13 states and the District of Columbia, since 2011. Pennsylvania American Water, the largest publicly traded American water and wastewater utility company, was ENBALA’s first demonstration project customer in the region. Its platform also supports the integration of wind energy in the windy Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

What makes ENBALA’s platform unique is that electricity consumers do not experience any service disruptions. Members of the network maintain full control over their processes while responding to the real-time needs of the power system, providing operational flexibility and demand-side energy storage. GOFlex receives a continuous signal from the electricity system operator and provides an automatic response to this signal by combining together the flexible power usage of its network of demand-side loads, while remaining within the pre-determined operating parameters of its customers.

By participating in the Grid Balance initiative, organizations also earn revenue based on their flexibility to respond. This additional revenue stream can be applied against rising electricity costs or any other business operating costs. Watch the video below to learn more about how the GOFlex platform works.

Aaron Barter

Aaron led the Community Energy Program at the Advanced Energy Centre, which examines systemic barriers to deployment of innovative technologies within local energy systems, and convenes industry to accelerate the deployment of microgrid solutions in Canada. See more…