This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 14, 2002

Solar Power Helps Deliver the Oil in Canada

Solar power systems are proving their durability, reliability, and ability to go where no power line can reach in a surprising project in Canada: an oil pipeline. Northern Power Systems built eight solar photovoltaic systems to power valve actuators at strategic points along the Corridor Pipeline, a dual pipeline that runs between a town near Edmonton, Alberta, to a mine about 300 miles north. Since the pipeline is located between about 54 and 57 degrees latitude, diesel generators provide backup power for those long winter nights. Northern also built 14 grid-connected battery backup systems, installed at pipeline locations that had power available to them. See the Northern press release (PDF 52 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

Strictly speaking, the Corridor Pipeline carries bitumen, a heavy crude oil that is too thick to flow through pipelines. Layers of the oil and water surround grains of sand that are mined in open pits. The oil is separated from the sand and water at the $2.1 billion Muskeg River Mine, and a mixture of oil and solvent is sent through the pipeline. At the $2.1 billion Scotford Upgrader, near Edmonton, the oil is recovered and refined, and the solvent is returned to the mine. Altogether, the Athabasca Oil Sands Project is so massive that it even requires a separate 70-mile natural gas pipeline to provide power and heat at the mine. See the Industry Overview and Project Profile on the Western Oil Sands Web site.