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Energy storage at Manitoba Hydro

This article was published in October 2019 and may be outdated.

‘Hydro’ has always stood for renewable, reliable, affordable energy.

It also means flexible energy.

What does that mean? Well, the key to Manitoba Hydro’s ‘flexibility’ (also called ‘dispatchability’) is its huge amount of energy storage — the water stored behind our hydro generating stations.

Our system is designed so that we can store that energy for when we need it. This puts us at an advantage when it comes to serving our customers.

As renewables like wind and solar power grow in popularity, our customers must increasingly lean on more stable supplies of power to make sure they have the electricity they need when they need it. As a stable and renewable source of power, hydro is an important part of any energy mix.

Here’s why: Wind and solar generation provide intermittent power that depends on the weather. That means those renewables alone can’t reliably meet the electrical demand of heat waves or cold snaps.

That’s where Manitoba Hydro’s flexibility comes in. Our energy storage — the water behind our generating stations — helps smooth out the variation in wind and solar power in the American Midwest. When demand rises, we can quickly ramp up generation and supply renewable hydropower to our regional grid to meet that demand.

At the same time, when wind generation is available from large wind farms in the United States, our hydropower stations can reduce production and store additional water for later.

As renewable energy becomes more common throughout the grid, our ability to supply power when it’s needed – our dispatchability – is becoming an increasingly valuable attribute to our export customers.

In such an environment, the goal of hydropower systems with reservoir storage has shifted from maximum energy production to staying flexible and able to meet always-changing demand.

Equally important, our flexibility in supplying carbon-free hydropower to our customers in the United States – and, increasingly, to Saskatchewan – plays a critical role by reducing global reliance on fossil fuels and helping our customers meet their carbon reduction goals.

As demand for renewable energy grows, hydro, solar power, and wind power need new transmission lines on which to travel.

More transmission lines mean greater reliability and more economic interchanges between utilities, which means renewable electricity will be there when you need it at an affordable price.