University of New Brunswick to Develop a Smart Grid for Barbados

An Atlantic province is helping a Caribbean nation with its goals to produce renewable energy.

University of New Brunswick (UNB) scientists announced they have received a combined $4.3 million from the Canadian government as well as Emera Inc., the parent company of Barbados Light and Power Co. The new money will be used to develop renewable energy solutions for the Caribbean country.

“We’re excited to support innovation-focused research towards creating a 100 per cent clean electricity supply,” said Chris Huskilson, president and CEO of Emera. “We believe the kind of technology being developed at UNB will play a critical role in making it possible for 100 per cent renewable energy to be affordable and reliable to serve our customers in the future.”

The five-year project will involve the designing, building, testing and demonstrating of a suite of distributed energy resource solutions for both commercialization by industry as well as implementation by utility companies. Emera will use the new technology developed by UNB researchers and deploy it within its system network at Barbados Light and Power.

After a testing period in a real-world environment, the results will be studied and refined then validated through other industry players, users, suppliers and regulators in order to see if it will be viable for expansion to other areas or markets. Right now, UNB is receiving data from Barbados and undergoing modelling procedures. In the next stage, UNB researchers will head to Barbados to deploy the tech.

“The partnership we’ve formed to become leaders in advanced smart grid technologies is having a global impact,” explained Eddy Campbell, president of UNB.

Smart grid technology refers to modern electricity systems that have very high levels of renewable generation and reliability, while also maintaining low levels of carbon emission. One core facet of a smart grid is the ability for consumers to supply energy to the power system themselves from technology like solar panels or wind farms.

“After more than a decade of work by many researchers and students here, UNB is now playing a key role in advancing the transformation of conventional power grids around the world,” Campbell added.

In terms of how the funding is split, the Government of Canada is investing $2.8 million through the Atlantic Innovation Fund, as well as an additional $82,100 through the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Emera is providing $1.4 million.

The research for this initiative will be done at UNB’s smart-grid research lab. The lab was launched in January of this year in partnership with Emera, who invested $6.2 million into the endeavour, while also creating a chair position for an Emera representative to sit on for the lab. The centre works with other partners including NB Power and Siemens.

Barbados is a smart choice for UNB to target for renewable energy research. The population on the island is small enough to sustain a low-power grid, and it currently relies on oil for about 80 per cent of their power. The country has pledged to transitions to a fully renewable grid by 2045, so UNB is well on the way to helping the island country get there.