Renewable Energy Integration Analysis for Northwest Territories Remote Communities
Renewable energy is an opportunity to provide low carbon electricity to NWT communities. We also need to ensure that the networks of generating stations, transmission lines, and distribution lines (often referred to as electricity grids) are reliable. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind can be challenging for electricity grids to absorb because they are intermittent.
This means they do not generate electricity all the time. To keep those systems reliable and stable, a cap of 20% has been placed on the amount of renewables that can be integrated in NWT communities with diesel and natural gas generated electricity.
The GNWT commissioned a technical study to assess the impact of different levels of intermittent renewable electricity on five remote community electricity grids.
The objective of the study was to determine whether the current 20% cap on intermittent renewables that can be integrated into the electricity grids of remote communities could be increased. The GNWT chose five communities – Inuvik, Fort Liard, Fort Simpson, Tulita and Łutselk’e – because they represent a wide range of NWT diesel community sizes and have already met the 20% cap on renewable energy in their respective electricity grids.
- Remote off-grid communities in the NWT can likely accept up to 45% intermittent renewable energy into their electricity grids without compromising their stability. This would allow communities to more than double their current production of renewable energy.
- Increasing the penetration of non-utility intermittent renewables (all customer-owned renewable power) under current policies increases already existing revenue loss for utilities. This increases electricity rates for consumers. This impact increases proportionally as the percentage of renewable energy penetration increases.
- Diesel savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions are significantly less than previously assumed for non-utility intermittent renewables used in microgrids. The main reasons for this include underestimated factors such as reactive power (this means degradation in power quality) and system efficiency losses.
- Increasing the renewables penetration limit beyond 45% would require an energy storage system, such as batteries. Although technically feasible at any penetration level, a centralized battery energy storage system (BESS) would not be cost effective until the penetration level in a community exceeds 75%. Small scale distributed BESS’s were not found to be economically viable at any penetration level.
Read the full report here.