Finding new ways to store energy with Ryerson and eCAMION

Inside the office of an energy storage company, men and women in lab coats work among wires, machinery, and boxes upon boxes of lithium ion batteries.

eCAMION Inc. is an energy storage solution firm with a tight-knit staff of 20 employees who produce energy storage products.

In collaboration with Ryerson University and L&T Technology Services, this small Scarborough-based company is working on big projects, announcing last month they will be developing the first community energy storage system in all of India.

Were excited about the opportunity of working with industrial giants. Theres great opportunity for commercialization and success,says Carmine Pizzurro, eCAMION president.

The companys community energy storage units, which are already being used in Toronto, look a lot like typical hydro boxes found in many Toronto neighbourhoods. But beneath its white casing, the unit contains 48 modules with more than 1,700 lithium ion batteries and a control system that stores and releases energy according to grid conditions. The smart controller was developed by Ryersons Centre for Urban Energy, including a team of postdoctoral and undergraduate engineering students. A version of these storage units will be adapted for use in the Indian grid system, the company says.

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The units store energy similar to the way rechargeable batteries do for our phones and computers, but on a much larger scale. By charging during off-peak hours and releasing stored energy during peak hours, the amount of electricity needed from the power grid is reduced. The storage system relieves some of the stress on Torontos aging infrastructure and provides backup power during outages. According to a Chief Risk Officers Forum report on power blackout risks, power outages can cause financial losses and are not as rare as commonly thought. The annual damage to the Canadian economy caused by power outages is estimated to be over $167 billion.

Bala Venkatesh, PhD, head of the Centre for Urban Energy, says these same benefits of improving energy quality and reducing outages will help issues in Indias energy system.

Indian electric systems are chronically short of power capacity to satisfy demand. Hence those systems are subject to outages,” he says.

To get a higher quality of energy supply, a government would also have to invest money for building new infrastructure in generation, transmission, and distribution. Energy storage reduces that new infrastructure requirement, says Venkatesh.

The project to bring community energy storage units to India is part of a government initiative to expand Ontarios trade with new and emerging markets. Last month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne returned from an eight-day Indian trade mission with governmental memorandums of understanding and 65 agreements worth $240 million. They are expected to create 150 new Ontario jobs.

Mississauga-based tech incubator ORTECH, and other companies ranging from academic institutions to wastewater firms also made agreements with Indian businesses, indicating more growth to come between Canada and India.

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Trade missions are an important vehicle for developing foreign trade. In this specific instance, it emphasized the governmental interest in enhancing this commercial relationship,says Venkatesh.

Venkatesh also says he’s excited about working in foreign markets for such a unique project. The cool feature of this project is the far-reaching impact of our research and development, in terms of improving electric supply in a far-away land,” he says. “The other exciting part is the ability to use these energy storage units to improve integration of renewables and make the energy supply chain environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Photos by Robyn Fiorda