Varennes, September 29, 2020
Hydro-Québec’s research institute: 50 years of innovation and today a major asset for the energy transition
On September 29, 1970, Premier Robert Bourassa inaugurated the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec (IREQ), Hydro-Québec’s research institute, in Varennes, on a tract of land of over 2.5 square kilometers. At the time, the general laboratories building (now called the Lionel-Boulet pavilion) housed 60 laboratories and the offices of 80 researchers. When it was founded, the research institute’s purpose was to perfect power transmission technology on 735-kV lines. The technology had been developed a few years earlier by Jean-Jacques Archambault.
Today, IREQ is a world-class research facility that includes the Hydro-Québec research center and the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage in Varennes, as well as the energy technologies laboratory (LTE) in Shawinigan. A team of 500 experts work on all aspects of Hydro-Québec’s activities, from electricity generation to consumption. In accordance with the principle of open innovation, which guides IREQ, the research institute partners with companies, universities, government agencies and research centers in Québec and elsewhere.
A rich history of innovation
Throughout its history, IREQ has been at the origin of many key innovative research projects that have changed the evolution not only of Hydro-Québec but also of power grids around the world. For instance:
- The spacer-damper, created in 1979 and marketed around the world
- HYPERSIM, a one-of-a-kind power system simulator used to perform tests prior to the commissioning of substations, high-voltage lines and other key equipment on the system
- The in-wheel motor that inspired the creation of TM4, today Dana TM4, the manufacturer of electric motors that power electric buses all over the world
- Robotics for inspecting lines, namely the LineScout and LineRanger robots and the LineDrone
- Establishing the Ouranos consortium, which brings together 250 scientists who share a common objective of advancing knowledge on the types of climate change that are likely to occur in Québec in the decades to come
- The creation of large-scale energy storage systems, the first of which have been installed in actual operating conditions in Hemmingford, Quaqtaq, Blainville and Lac-Mégantic
- Our battery research, whose intellectual property is today protected by 800 patents and used in many devices around the world, from cell phones to large-scale storage systems and electric cars
Driving the energy transition
The innovations developed during this decade are being used today in several major research projects that bring us closer to the power grid of tomorrow, which will be vastly different from the grid of the past 50 years. For instance, it will integrate distributed energy resources, such as solar, wind, energy storage and even electric vehicles connected to the grid via bi-directional charging stations. It will lead to a more efficient use of existing resources by integrating smart technology in energy-hungry appliances—a technology used by Hydro-Québec subsidiary Hilo—and greater grid resilience at the local level, currently being studied in the Lac-Mégantic microgrid project. Tomorrow’s grid will use artificial intelligence and big data to further expand our understanding of energy-use habits, which will help us better anticipate and adapt to Quebecers’ evolving needs.
To highlight the 50th anniversary of IREQ’s founding, Hydro-Québec is today releasing online content that will take the public on a journey to discover the institute’s past and future innovations. You can now:
- Visit the site celebrating IREQ’s 50 years of daring and innovation.
- Watch a panoramic video that includes a visit of IREQ and takes you inside the high-voltage laboratory (LHT) in Varennes, a massive facility that is truly one of a kind in North America.
- “Innovation has been at the heart of Hydro-Québec’s history since the outset. Faced with the challenge of the energy transition and armed with the boldness of the IREQ teams, everything points to this tradition of innovation continuing for a long time to come.” – Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Québec
- “The work carried out by IREQ positions Québec as a world leader in its area of expertise. Its work is perfectly aligned with our government’s focus on transitioning to green energy and electrifying our economy.” – Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources
- “A research center will become a necessity if Hydro-Québec is to remain on the cutting edge of progress in the science and technology of electricity.” – Lionel Boulet, IREQ’s founder, June 15, 1965
+1 514 289-3227