Monday, January 26, 2009

Recharging the Grid with Electric Cars

January 21, 2009 // A utility in Delaware has taken a step toward a future in which electric cars store renewable energy to help make its use more widespread.

The city of Newark has approved a system called vehicle-to-grid (V2G), in which the battery pack in a car serves as a place to temporarily store energy from the power grid.

A big problem with renewable sources of power like solar or wind is that they only operate intermittently. For now, renewables provide such a small part of the total electricity supply that other sources can easily make up for the hours, minutes, or days when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. But if we're ever to rely on them for a large part of our power, we'll need a cheap way to store the energy that they produce for when it's needed most.

The vehicle-to-grid concept suggests a way to store energy cheaply, since the batteries in electric cars have already been paid for. Most of the time, a car is just sitting around doing nothing. For short-term storage--needed to smooth out fluctuations in power from a wind turbine, for example--a utility could quickly charge a car (or, ideally, distribute a little charge to hundreds or thousands of cars) when the wind is blowing and then take that electricity back a few minutes later when the wind dies down. The more cars that are available, the more energy can be stored. Longer-term storage might also be possible: a car owner could charge up for a discount at night, provided she agreed to keep the car plugged in at work to supply extra power during peak power demand in the afternoon. More >>>

Unfortunately, here in the Cayman Islands, given the lack of incentives to generate our own electricity on our homes or businesses, technology like this will not be feasible without a change of government policy. At present the policy favours the incumbent generator and not the consumer or the country. Editor.