Centre for Grid Innovation

 The Centre for Grid Innovation (CGI) supports Alberta’s energy transition to an electrified and renewable electricity grid of the future. The centre provides expertise in micro-grid developments, solar installations, and electric vehicle integration, as well as a microgrid testing and validation environment to facilitate new product development. 

The centre microgrid is equipped with a variety of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar panels, battery storage devices, microgrid controllers, programable load banks, and plug stations that allow for integration of user devices. 

The CGI also offers project support in the form of our Grid Innovation Project Seed Fund. 

Learn more about our seed funding

Research areas

Learn more about our research specializations and the impact we've made in these areas with our industry partners.

Distributed energy Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Our Projects

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A picture of NAIT Applied Research's microgrid

Virtual Powerplant (VPP) Technology Development and Validation

NAIT Applied Research Lead 
Darren Dunfield

Partners and collaborators
Trex-AI Inc.

Project Details

Purpose:
To build, develop, integrate, and validate custom AI based Virtual Powerplant (VPP) controller systems

Expected Completion:
September 2024

Project Overview:
This project will provide a means to procure all necessary equipment to build and develop a custom built and programmed VPP controller optimized by a cloud-based AI system for optimizing energy of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) in houses and businesses, aggregating systems across geographical areas. NAIT CGI is providing space, equipment, financing, electrical and microgrid expertise through the project to aid in the development of the system.

There are three phases to this project:

  1. Obtaining all hardware, building the VPP controllers, programming the network and testing the network range and strength.
  2. Install a battery and inverter to a VPP controller to build and validate the controller’s functionality and communication with the devices.
  3. Build and connect a second phase 2 systems and test and optimize communication between the two system VPP controllers. Optimize control programming for energy flows of each individual system operating together as a whole.

 

Electric Vehicle Level 1 Charging Awareness

NAIT Applied Research Lead 
Darren Dunfield

Partners and collaborators
Red River College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Project Details

Purpose
Awareness initiative focused on level 1 EV charging at the workplace

Funding
NRCan ZEVAI Grant

Project Overview
We investigated the process of converting vehicle heater plugs to Level 1 EV charging outlets and guided the knowledge transfer and installation method with Red River College and SaskPoly. A survey was produced and distributed to businesses across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, which focused on EV charging at the workplace and gauged business appetite around EV’s and EV charging. Responses were aggregated and summarized in a final report.

Outcomes
A case was presented in the report for the validity and use case of Level 1 EV charging at the workplace as a viable, and important, part of the EV charging landscape of the future. In addition, 14 Level 1 EV charging outlets were converted from vehicle heater plugs across Red River College, SaskPoly, and NAIT, with 10 being at NAIT in three parking lot locations.

close up of a solar panel

Solar PV Module Reuse with ARMA and Hi-Tech Recyclers

NAIT Applied Research Lead 
Darren Dunfield

Partners and collaborators
Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA), Hi-Tech Recyclers

Project Details

Purpose

Create the technical pathway to assess, test, and quantify the ability of a used solar PV module for reuse application, as a means of destructive end of life diversion.

Project Scope

The CGI created a test bed, procured all the necessary testing and measuring equipment, and outlined the specific step-by-step procedures to assess and test used solar PV modules. The output of these assessments and tests were quantified and compared to original manufactured values to quantify module degradation, safety, and suitability for reuse application.

Outcomes:

The test bed, tools and equipment, and procedure was handed over to ARMA and Hi-Tech Recyclers where the CGI trained Hi-Tech Recyclers staff to continue the process locally. As a result of this project, best practices for demolition, decommissioning, handling and transportation of solar modules has been developed, with CGI guidance, by a student driven capstone project for NAITs Alternative Energy Program for ARMA.

Labs and facilities

The microgrid laboratory provides an isolated residential-scale electrical system with a unique plug-and-play interface that allows for the testing and validation of new technologies in a fully controllable electrical environment.

Microgrid Laboratory

NAIT’s microgrid laboratory is a 1,700 square foot, custom-designed space powered directly by solar panels, a battery energy storage system, and a combined heat and power generator.

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Latest from the centre

Centre for Grid Innovation Project Seed Funding

This funding, for qualifying Alberta businesses and organizations, aims to further innovation initiatives and technology development in Alberta's electricity grid.

Dec. 04, 2022

Pilot project to refurbish solar panels before they end up in Alberta landfills

NAIT Centre for Grid Innovation testing and training others to test solar panels.

Find out more
Nov. 03, 2022

Saskatchewan Polytechnic helping build EV infrastructure on the prairies

NAIT, RRC Polytech & Sask Polytech are collaborating with Natural Resources Canada's Zero Emission Vehicle Awareness Initiative to address the issue of workplace charging for electric vehicle owners.

Find out more