In an admittedly modest but potentially very meaningful undertaking, City of Newark, Delaware, has become the first electric utility in America to establish a pilot program where vehicles are being used to store and provide power to the existing local electric grid. Working with a research team from the University of Delaware, the City of Newark has begun testing the first of these Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) offerings, a Gen I Scion xB that has been converted to full electric vehicle (EV) status. Home to the University of Delaware and located near the state's Pennsylvania/Maryland border, the city of 30,000 currently has two operational V2G charging points. However, Associate Professor of Marine Policy, Willett Kempton, and the team expect to have up to six vehicles with V2G capabilities and additional charging stations in operation by the end of the year.
Kempton, who plugs the one-off Scion xB EV in at his home each evening, says an overnight recharge can store enough electricity to power seven or eight homes for up to 30 minutes. He hopes to demonstrate how an expanded V2G fleet can be linked together to act as a single mini powerplant that can have positive impact both in upgrading the country's electrical grid infrastructure and in helping trim our dependence on petroleum. Kempton is a firm believer in the future benefits of the V2G approach, which is currently being considered by several other large U.S. cities, including Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, California. He notes that because existing electric grid systems lack storage capability, generation and use must be simultaneous processes, a factor that will become even more challenging in the years ahead when a greater percentage of power will be generated using renewables like solar and wind. Widespread implementation of an integrated V2G approach will allow grid operators to smooth and optimize those power flows -- and vehicle owners to reap financial rewards.
"Wind tends to blow stronger at night when the electric load is low. If electric vehicles charged at night with wind power, the grid operator could use the energy in the batteries, when vehicles aren't needed for driving and are plugged in, to help maintain grid reliability. The vehicle owner would then be paid for providing these energy services at a greater value than what they paid for the electricity." Savings, he contends that could add up to thousands of dollars per year.
Photo courtesy of University of Delaware.