IN 2012, former Home Depot Canada CEO Annette Verschuren founded NRStor Inc. with the goal of advancing the commercialization of the energy storage industry in Canada. Energy storage technologies are capable of withdrawing and reinjecting electricity on-demand to better manage the power system. While energy storage deployments have increased in recent years, the industry remains untapped to the best of its potential. Verschuren sought a solution through NRStor to fill the gap within the value chain, recognizing the need for new low carbon technologies to be championed by a project developer.
Over the years, NRStor has secured contracts for several utility scale energy storage projects with Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). According to Geoff Osborne, NRStor’s Manager of Business Development, NRStor successfully built and operationalized the first commercial, grid-connected flywheel storage project in Canada; a major achievement for the company. NRStor partnered with Temporal Power, a Canadian manufacturer of the world’s highest energy flywheels, to deliver the project. The 2 megawatt (MW), 500 kilowatt-hour (kWh) facility delivers regulation service to the IESO, better balancing the frequency of electricity on the grid and matching supply and demand on a real-time basis.
Commercial operations at the facility began in July 2014, and it continues to deliver valuable services to the Ontario grid. Since then, NRStor secured a contract to build a fuel-free Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) project using Hydrostor’s advanced adiabatic (emissions free) CAES technology. The project is currently under development and will be located in Goderich, Ontario.
NRStor is also targeting the residential energy storage market through its subsidiary MPOWER Energy Solutions – a joint venture between NRStor and Opus One Solutions. Through MPOWER’s partnership with Tesla Energy, it is installing the Tesla Powerwall home battery for customers across Canada. “The realization of this initiative was a significant milestone, allowing NRStor to provide energy solutions across the supply chain, from residential customers to large utilities” commented Osborne.
Through NRStor’s swift progression over the past few years, it has also expanded its offering to serve commercial and industrial customers. Using energy storage, large energy users can save on their energy costs by shifting electricity usage from peak demand times to off-peak times. Another NRStor venture focuses on developing energy solutions for remote communities and mines. Osborne explained, “Off-grid communities dependent on diesel fuel can reduce their diesel usage – resulting in lower GHG emissions, improved health of the community, and stable energy costs – by installing sustainable microgrid solutions. NRStor partners with communities to work together to finance, build, own and operate these microgrid projects.”
In February of this year, NRStor announced it had received an $11 million equity financing commitment as well as access to $200 million in additional capital in support of its project pipeline from the Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada (LiUNA). Fengate Real Asset Investments will manage LiUNA’s investment in NRStor. Osborne and his colleagues believe this announcement has spotlighted a growing institutional interest in financing low carbon energy infrastructure. LiUNA is a major pension fund with $5.7 billion of assets under management. “This is a positive signal for the Canadian clean technology industry,” he adds. “Traditional investors are understanding that new and innovative energy infrastructure has a key role to play in our future electric system, and that there is a clear and growing market and business case for low carbon projects.” Growing access to smart project capital means that NRStor is in a strong position to build out energy storage projects and put that capital to work.
NRStor’s early entry into the market has allowed it to build much stronger relationships with fellow industry leaders, as well as catalyze the growth of the industry overall. The company was a founding member of Energy Storage Ontario (ESO) and the Alberta Storage Alliance (ASA), which strive to lower barriers to energy innovation by educating the market on the benefits of storage technologies. Since then, these two groups have merged to create Energy Storage Canada (ESC), “presenting a unified voice for energy storage and energy innovation across the country,” according to Osborne.
Globally, the market for energy storage continues to grow and prosper. Storage technology can provide grid flexibility services with faster response times, no minimum loading points or runtimes, while producing no emissions. NRStor believes that as more energy storage projects are deployed, system operators and utilities are increasingly recognizing the unique benefits that storage technologies can deliver.
“Our electricity system is poised for significant change with the growing penetration of intermittent renewable generation, ageing infrastructure and a host of exciting new technologies like energy storage,” said Osborne. “Storage can better optimize existing energy infrastructure, while opening the door to new products and services not previously contemplated. Managing this change will undoubtedly be a challenge, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to ensure we are leaders in tomorrow’s low carbon economy. With innovators across the sector – from technology suppliers to project developers, and forward-thinking utilities – Canada can be a global leader in this space.”