Quebec Town Begins Operating Clean Energy Microgrid Following Fossil Fuel Disaster

July 12, 2021
Lac-Mégantic, a town in Quebec, Canada, scarred by a fossil fuel disaster in 2013 that killed 47 people, has begun powering its town center with a clean energy microgrid.

Lac-Mégantic, a town in Quebec, Canada, has begun powering its town center with a clean energy microgrid, part of its pursuit of greater sustainability following a fossil fuel disaster in 2013 that killed 47 people.

Built in partnership with utility Hydro-Quebec, the microgrid serves more than 30 buildings, roughly half of the downtown area.

Designed to position Lac-Mégantic as a leader in Quebec’s energy transition, the sustainable microgrid includes more than 2,000 solar panels installed on six buildings, amounting to nearly 800 kW of clean power input capacity.

Generating electricity daily, the solar panels will charge the microgrid’s 700 kWh of battery storage capacity and send excess energy to adjacent buildings throughout the grid. 

In the event of a blackout, the microgrid is designed to independently power 30 interconnected residential, commercial and institutional buildings in downtown Lac-Mégantic for several hours.

The city has also made efforts to reduce energy consumption within the interconnected downtown buildings by installing smart components, equipment and systems designed to optimize power use. 

To help build sustainable electric vehicle infrastructure, the microgrid also includes a public 240V fast-charging station.  

Officially launched in 2018, the project is part of Lac-Mégantic’s effort to become a local leader in sustainable development.  

Julie Morin, the mayor of Lac-Mégantic, said she is optimistic about the city’s technological and societal shift after “an unprecedented environmental tragedy caused by factors including fossil fuel use.” Morin was referring to an explosion that occurred when a freight train carrying crude oil derailed downtown. About half the town center was destroyed. The disaster led the town to readjust its vision about its energy future.

Sophie Brochu, Hydro-Québec president and CEO, said he is also hopeful that the technology can be implemented elsewhere in surrounding Quebec.

“From a technological perspective, the expertise we are acquiring through the microgrid will one day benefit all our customers and make it possible to decarbonate our off-grid systems in outlying areas that currently rely on fossil fuels,” said Éric Filion, executive vice president of distribution, procurement and shared services at Hydro-Québec.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, noted that “the city is a living laboratory,” which can test new technologies and innovations.

For those visiting the new downtown area, the Lac-Mégantic microgrid also includes an indoor and outdoor interactive technology showcase to increase public awareness and interest in the project. 

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About the Author

Brian Church

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