February 16, 2011 - The Burnaby campus of British Columbia Institute of Technology  (BCIT) could be the catalyst for major changes in power distribution at BC Hydro with the introduction of a micro-grid.
BCIT and research partners including University of B.C. and University of Toronto received $5 million in federal funding last week to ramp-up the technical institute's smart grid research program.

Electrical utilities in Canada and around the world are looking for ways to make their power distribution grids more cost-effective. You can delay costly investments in new power supply if you do a better job of managing the supply you've already got, the thinking goes.

Utilities such as Hydro are also bracing for rising power demand from electric vehicles, as well as tiny, incremental power supply contributions by people who want to add solar panels and small wind turbines to their homes or businesses.

Adding so-called green power into the system offers yet another group of challenges. Wind turbines and run of river hydro plants don't provide the same rock-steady power output as large hydro or gas-fired generating stations. Keeping line voltages steady means more focused effort on balancing a power system's load.

On top of that, you've got the adoption of digital smart meters which give consumers near-instant information about power use and potentially, the option to instantly change their consumption habits in order to save money.