Nova Scotia·Video

Pilot project using Tesla powerwalls to power 10 N.S. homes a success

A pilot project that introduced a renewable energy battery storage system to 10 homes in Elmsdale, N.S., could eventually change how people power their homes.

$3.2M pilot project is one of the first battery installations of its kind in Canada

A pilot project that introduced a renewable energy battery storage system to 10 homes in Elmsdale, N.S., could eventually change how people power their homes. 2:40

A pilot project that introduced a renewable energy battery storage system to 10 homes in Elmsdale, N.S., could eventually change how people power their homes.

The project, which is a joint effort of Nova Scotia Power, clean energy company Tesla and Ontario energy company Opus One Solutions, was launched in 2017. A grid-size battery was installed at Elmsdale's substation and 10 Tesla powerwalls were installed in homes nearby.

"Customers enjoy the reliability that the batteries provide [and] that all the cases we were testing were successful and so the batteries can do what we want them to do," said Jill Searle, the smart grid program manager for Nova Scotia Power. 

"The next question is where would we deploy them that it's effective for the grid and effective for customers."

Wind energy powers the Tesla power pack at the substation, which sends energy to be stored in the powerwalls of the 10 homes.

Mark Candow is one of the 10 homeowners to have a powerwall battery installed in his home in Elmsdale, N.S. (CBC)

The project cost about $3.2 million and is one of the first battery installations of its kind in Canada.

Searle said testing the system is just the first step in trying to harness and store wind energy, and eventually, solar power.

"Being able to take that energy stored in the battery until a time that our customers need it, that's a benefit to us and for customers as well," Searle said.

Jill Searle, the smart grid program manager for Nova Scotia Power, says the grid could power up to 300 homes, but only 10 homes were tested over two years. (CBC)

She's encouraged by the pilot study and hopes more testing will be done to make renewable energy more affordable and available to more people. She said the battery installed at the substation can power up to 300 homes, but only 10 homes were selected to test the system because lithium ion is expensive.

Mark Candow was one of the homeowners selected for the pilot.

"From my standpoint, it is essentially a quiet generator for me," Candow said. "The power goes out [and] I get a text from Tesla saying the power is out, but I don't realize the power is out because it's still going."

The powerwalls serve as sources of extra power during outages but could one day serve as a way to power homes through solar panels connected to the home.

The Tesla battery pack installed at the Elmsdale substation is powered by wind energy. (CBC)

Candow said the powerwall provided his home with 19 hours of electricity when his power went out during Hurricane Dorian last September.

"In our neighborhood, there are few people with the Tesla power. You know the ones with it and the ones without, [because] everything goes dark except for our house and a few other homes," he said.

Searle said the next step is to do more analysis on the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

"We want to make sure we're making decisions that are good for customers, so we're going to watch the price of that and potentially deploy batteries at other locations in the future," she said.

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With files from Colleen Jones

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