Engineering a smarter future for London: London Hydro and Western University open Smart Grid lab

March 8, 2013

OCE-supported collaboration continues to shine with follow-on project

OCE business development specialists Carole Champion and Steve Colbert are seen here at the opening of the Watts Lab for Smart Grid and Innovative DG Control Studies, a collaboration between London Hydro and Western University.

London Hydro and Western University have taken their relationship to the next level: they’ve moved in together.

Driven by London Hydro, these two partners recently opened the Watts Lab for Smart Grid and Innovative DG Control Studies, a $1-million state-of-the-art university research lab, located in the local utility company’s own buildings.

This marks the first time in Ontario that a power distribution utility is establishing a university lab on its own premises. Here, students—future engineering leaders—and leading-edge researchers collaborate with engineers in the field. Having the lab onsite allows the utility and the university to easily and efficiently pool resources and advance the development of new technologies. Ultimately, their goal is to offer new sustainable energy options to residents of London, Ontario.

The lab will be primarily used for designing, developing and testing enhanced utilization of real power generating capacity of distributed generator (DG) inverters as statcom, technology that has been patented by Dr. Rajiv Varma of Western University and London Hydro as a result of a successful multi-million dollar collaborative research project, $3 million of which was invested through OCE's Special Energy Fund. Conducted at one of the largest solar farms in the world, this research will help give solar farms the ability to act as an energy storage device at night.

OCE put significant non-monetary investment into the project as well, playing a key intermediary role, bringing together partners London Hydro, Sarnia-based Bluewater Power, Ontario Power Authority (OPA), Hydro One Networks and First Solar Development Canada. OCE business development specialists Carole Champion and Steve Colbert logged many hours tending to both the project and the partnership.

For this, the project partners acknowledged the contribution that OCE, and specifically Carole, made to realizing this new infrastructure on a plaque that was unveiled at the opening ceremony. The plaque reads:

Watts Laboratory for Smart Grid and Innovative DG Control Studies
Sincere gratitude is expressed to
Vinay Sharma and Carole Champion
For creating this Lab

It also thanks the funders of the equipment in the lab, including OCE.

“The Watts lab exemplifies the critically important role a utility can play in testing, verifying  and showcasing academic research,” said Dr.Tom Corr, president and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence. “Field testing is essential for demonstrating the viability of technology developed in an academic setting. It provides the evidence needed to assure industry that the technology merits commercial development.”