Deploying Reliable Power: SRC Helps Develop Award-Winning Demonstration

Date Posted

The inside of an energy container with a blue banner that reads Deploying Reliable Power

Whether it’s powering remote industrial sites or off-grid communities, the Saskatchewan Research Council’s (SRC) Integrated Energy Systems team provides customized resilient smart-grid solutions for clients looking to lower their carbon footprint and increase reliability.  

Since 2014, SRC’s Hybrid Energy Containers (HEC) have delivered custom decentralized energy solutions, delivering a combination of conventional and renewable power generation along with energy storage and remote monitoring and control.  

“Depending on the application, the solution typically consists of a diesel generator, energy storage and renewable sources, including solar and wind power, integrated in a proven and reliable microgrid,” Integrated Energy Systems Team Lead Ryan Jansen says. “The system can be customized to withstand harsh climates and weather events without outages while maintaining reliable remote monitoring and control capabilities.” 

Developing an energy efficient RTC for military missions 

In 2023, SRC’s Integrated Energy Systems team joined forces with a group of tech companies to tackle the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) Program – Pop-up City contest, held by Canada’s Department of National Defence. The goal was to demonstrate an improved Relocatable Temporary Camp (RTC) for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), with improved energy, water and waste management systems. 

For this demonstration, Innocorps Research Corp., a Saskatoon-based water-purification company with the mandate of delivering clean water to everybody, formed the Circular City Consortium, teaming up with Eco-Growth Environmental Inc., Harmony Desalination Corp., Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and SRC to take on this challenge.  

SRC was responsible for powering the camp and it fulfilled this obligation through a customized HEC for this project. 

The Circular City Consortium won the competition following a demonstration of the RTC at the Canadian Forces Base in Suffield, Alberta in August 2023. According to Innocorps, the central component to the victory was the world-first demonstration of a mobile direct potable water reuse system, which safely recycled wastewater back to drinkable water.  

“The Pop-up City Contest was the most complicated project that we have ever worked on. We greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication from SRC and its ability to deliver in short order to complete our microgrid subsystem with the seamless integration of the HEC,” Innocorps Research Corp. CEO Aarya Shahsavar says. “With that, we were able to successfully demonstrate how rapidly deployable solar panels and battery storage can be hybridized with diesel generation and used in military and remote applications to reduce fuel.” 

Wall-to-wall technology and hybrid solutions provide reliable power  

With nearly a decade of experience in customizing alternative power and energy containers, SRC had the knowledge and expertise to develop a container for the consortium that fit the project’s specific needs.  

“The basic building blocks are similar, but the amount of storage that you need for a project will depend on what the loads are, what your generation sources are and what the goal of the project is,” Jansen says.  

Because this HEC was customized for a military application, Jansen said his team focused on ease of transportation and rapid deployment to fit the needs of the CAF.  

“We had the container insulated to endure harsh climates, and we installed tilt-up solar panels arrays on both the top and side of the container. The idea was to make it rapidly deployable so you can move this on site, pop up your solar panels and you’ve got instant power at the site,” Jansen says. “Everything is pop up, it’s modular and ready to go.” 

The inside of the HEC is wall-to-wall technology that’s broken down into three components: an integrated auxiliary power input, inverters and lithium-iron phosphate batteries with 135 kW of power and pop-up solar arrays, which provide the backbone of the microgrid.  

“It’s enough to power an average household for about 10 hours,” Jansen says.  

The Integrated Energy Systems team opted for a smaller battery storage capacity for this military demonstration, with the ability to boost the power and storage supply significantly depending on the application.  

“Had they needed something to power an RTC for two weeks, we would’ve delivered a HEC to do exactly that. We’d bring in another container and install additional batteries so it could sustain the camp much longer,” Jansen says.  

Building a self-contained system that adapts to outside conditions  

Jansen added his team integrated an advanced heating and cooling system so the HEC could efficiently supply power to a microgrid in the harshest environments. The HEC adapts accordingly in locations blanketed in in extreme heat or stifled by a polar vortex.  

While the Pop-Up City contest didn’t specifically require the RTC to be able to withstand extreme heat or cold climates, Jansen said the team went above and beyond, delivering a microgrid with the ability to operate under both extremes.  

The inside of the container adapts to the conditions outside, with air source heat pumps that can provide both heating and cooling. Custom forced-air fans can draw hot or cool air in to maintain the inside temperature without relying on more power-hungry options such as conventional air conditioning and electric heating.  

“It's controlled electronically by our programmable logic controller which is the brain of the HEC’s system. It chooses which method of heating or cooling is most beneficial at the time, and automatically turns on and heats or cools the container,” Jansen says.  

Allowances have been made within the temperature control system to utilize excess renewable energy to preemptively heat or cool the container to further increase the system’s efficiency. 

“If the batteries are full and there is excessive renewable power in cold weather, our system automatically turns on multiple heat sources to heat the container up to 30 degrees Celsius, even if it’s minus 40 outside,” Jansen says.  

“SRC understands what it means to operate in austere environments, with past experience deploying HECs for northern Saskatchewan. We were able to work together to advance the HEC platform with new capabilities through this project that we hope can benefit a wider audience,” Shahsavar says.  

Knowing the customized HEC helped elevate the Circular City Consortium’s pitch for a new and improved RTC, Jansen said he’s thankful Innocorps recognized SRC’s expertise and included them in the project.  

“They came to us because they noticed, just like themselves, that we've got something novel. We have capabilities and capacities that complemented the project team, so I think they chose their team well,” Jansen says. “Ultimately, we all delivered on what we had promised to do, and what we had promised to do is make something that was novel, effective and reliable.”