Keeping the lights on: Waterton Lakes National Park townsite now has backup power

Fortis Alberta, one of the province’s largest energy distributors who supply more than half-a-million customers in central and southern Alberta, has outlined a new battery storage system for the Waterton Lakes National Park townsite.

Swelling with tourist during the summer season, the park attracts out-of-town adventurers with its numerous hiking trails, sights, and more.

Many take time to visit the townsite for a bite to eat, shop for a souvenir, or even stay the night at one of the resorts, hotels or campgrounds in the mountain park.

With such a surge in population, the park said it’s vital to have a adequate power supply.

“We see close to 500,000 visitors a year, so having that reliable power for both our businesses and our own operations, it really is important for safety and the quality experience,” said Dallas Meidinger, the external relations manager with Waterton Lakes National Park.

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“We have one transmission line bringing electricity to (the park), which means whenever there’s a disruption on that line, we’re looking at a power disruption for the entire community.”

Click to play video: 'Waterton National Park business owners concerned'

Waterton National Park business owners concerned

During the 2017 Kenow wildfire in the park, transmission lines from the park boundary to the townsite were damaged and Fortis crews had to make repairs.

Read more: Ottawa spending $21M to help fire damaged Waterton Lakes National Park

With just the single line supplying power, outages mean a waiting game as crews worked to restore power.

“We were met with two options: construct a second power line in case of an outage to the first, or come up with something totally different,” said FortisAlberta president & CEO Janine Sullivan.

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The solution, ultimately, was something completely different for the “wires and poles” company. It combines a Battery Energy Storage Solution, or BESS, with solar voltaic renewable generation.

Simply, it’s a microgrid meant to transfer the community between grid and battery supply when needed.

The $6-million project received funding from Alberta Innovates, Emissions Reduction Alberta and Natural Resources Canada’s Smart Grid Program, and has been fully operational since the fall of 2022.

“This does enable (us to) have that power back up-and-running a lot quicker,” said Meidinger, adding it has also meant Parks Canada has been able to reduce its footprint.

“It actually powers our parks operations compound, which is enabling us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 per cent.”

Read more: Province grants a growing Coaldale, Alta. $1M for infrastructure projects

On Thursday, the company also celebrated the relocation of its Lethbridge office to Coaldale, a change Sullivan said “kills two birds with one stone.”

Officials pose for a photograph inside FortisAlberta’s new Coaldale facility, which opened in Feb., 2023. Eloise Therien / Global News

Fortis serves a large area of southern Alberta, spanning around 9,400 square kilometres, running through the counties of Lethbridge, Cardston, Taber, Warner, Willow Creek, and Vulcan.

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“It really aligned with a normal course relocation, as well as an emerging need with customers, and we also took this opportunity to build this building in line with a new standard, a net zero standard,” Sullivan explained.

“It’s a huge win for not only the town of Coaldale but also the region. The economic spinoffs will benefit everyone,” added Coaldale Mayor Jack Van Rijn.

The facility is essentially self-sufficient, using solar on the roof and behind the property. It also significantly reduces energy by using eco-friendly materials, high efficiency mechanical systems, and LED lighting.

&© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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