Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marrying Wind Power with Electric Vehicles

    Marrying Wind Power with Electric Vehicles
     
  • A research project in Denmark is aiming to combine wind power and electric vehicles. The scientists are designing a system in which electric cars using smart meters will one day automatically start charging when there's an excess of wind-generated electricity.
  • A research project in Denmark is aiming to combine wind power and electric vehicles. The scientists are designing a system in which electric cars using smart meters will one day automatically start charging when there's an excess of wind-generated electricity.Talk about green nirvana. If a research project in Denmark goes as planned, electric cars using smart meters will one day automatically start charging when there's an excess of wind-generated electricity. It's a win-win all around.
    Such automated charging would overcome potential problems in regions of the world that expect to produce significant amounts of electricity from wind. In particular, intelligently marrying electric vehicle charging with spikes in wind generation could help stabilize a grid. It also eliminates the need to add large (and expensive) storage capacity to an existing grid infrastructure—something that many are exploring today.
    The project is called "Electric vehicles in a Distributed and Integrated market using Sustainable energy and Open Networks" (EDISON). The effort is being carried out by Denmark's largest energy company, DONG Energy, and the regional energy company of Oestkraft. Partners include the Danish Energy Association, Eurisco (a Danish research company), IBM, Siemens and the Technical University of Denmark.

    Windmills on the Denmark Island of Bornholm (source: IBM Research-Zurich).
    The initial goal of the EDISON project is to set up a testbed on the Denmark Island of Bornholm to study how energy systems function as the number of electric vehicles increases. Additionally, EDISON's aim is to offer a real-time dynamic response whenever wind production surges. This takes electric vehicle charging to a new level.
    The conventional thinking has always been that electric vehicles would charge at night. This has appeal, since electrical demand is lowest at night. By charging at night, when there is surplus generation capacity, utilities could avoid building additional power plants to meet the increased energy demands of electric vehicles.
    An extension of this idea has been to entice people to charge at night by offering time-of-day electrical rates that are significantly lower in non-peak times. For example, that is the goal of a new trial program being conducted by DTE Energy Co.'s Detroit Edison unit. In this effort to evaluate the effect of variable electricity rates for electric vehicles on its infrastructure, the utility is offering trial participants an on-peak charging rate of $0.18195 per kilowatt-hour, which applies from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday. The participants get a significantly lower off-peak rate of $0.07695 all other times.

    EDISON builds on the idea of charging when demand is low and there is surplus generation capacity. Specifically, it looks to use the storage capacity of electric vehicles as a type of buffer that helps smooth out bursts of wind power generation. This is something that is increasingly getting attention as more wind farms are deployed around the globe.
    "[Electric vehicles] have been around, but now market forces are aligning," said Clay Luthy, Global Distributed Energy Resource Leader in the IBM Global Energy and Utility Industry Group. "Most EVs will charge at night," he said, "so there's an opportunity for better integration."
    Specifically, unlike solar panels, wind systems produce electricity at night. In some locations, they actually produce more power at night than during the day.
    Focus on Denmark
    There are two drivers for the EDISON project. First, a sizable amount (about 20 percent) of Denmark's electricity is already produced by wind, and the amount is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
    The second driver relates to electric vehicle adoption. Electric vehicle use in Denmark is expected to grow quickly due to strong European Union and other carbon emission mandates. In fact, upward of 10 percent of the country's vehicles are expected to be all-electric or hybrid-electric in the coming years.
    Prototype dashboard charging monitor for Project EDISON (source: IBM Research-Zurich).
    As part of the EDISON project, researchers will develop technologies (including smart meters and software) that synchronize the charging of the electric vehicles with the availability of wind in the grid.

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