Canada comes clean

A system that will demonstrate how remote communities can generate clean power is about to be built in the town of Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

The new system will be developed by BC Hydro, General Electric and Powertech.

‘The project will address two challenges,’ said Blair Lekstrom, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources.

‘It will reduce Bella Coola’s annual diesel-consumption by 200,000 litres – lowering greenhouse-gas emissions by 600 tonnes annually – and provide storage for run-of-river power, so the electricity can be used when the community needs it most.’

Bella Coola, which is 439km north of Vancouver, is not connected to BC Hydro’s grid.

Currently, the town is powered by diesel generators, which emit greenhouse gases, and by a run-of-river facility, a type of hydroelectric generation system in which the natural flow and elevation drop of a river are used to generate electricity.

While clean, the hydroelectric system is not capable of storing energy.

The new system will work by converting electricity from the run-of-river system in off-peak periods into hydrogen through an electrolyzer, and subsequently into electricity through a fuel cell that will create power during periods of peak demand.

Testing of the system is now underway at Powertech.

Once testing is complete, BC Hydro will move the equipment to Bella Coola and construct the project.

It will begin operating later in 2009.

The project is supported by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a not-for-profit corporation created by the government of Canada.