As electric cars continue to surge, the demand on power grids across the world will continue to rise. Many fear that this drastic increase in energy consumption, up to 50% for some households, could lead to a global energy shortage. Or even worse, a need to burn excess fossil fuels to generate the power. Many power companies are already working to solve potential problems, and they have found some rather innovative solutions.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
For most electric car owners, they take their vehicle to work and drive home in the evening. When they get home, they plug in their car so it is charged up for another day of driving. Right now, with only about 500,000 EVs spread across the US according to Recode, the surge burden isn't that great for power companies.
However, when we see a rise in EV adoption above just .66% of the market into somewhere in the double digits, the surge on the power grid at night could create some interesting problems. Power companies are preparing and one solution by companies is to transform the grid into a smart grid, according to the New York Times.
Smart Grid Technology
The proposition basically states that EV owners would have a smart grid adapter connected to their home. Instead of all-electric vehicles coming on grid at once in the evenings, their power consumption could be scattered across the night. Smart grid technology may even allow consumers to set their car to only charge when the price of electricity reaches a certain rate – or when wind energy surges the grid and so on.
This idea of a smart grid solves a problem that the energy market has been dealing with in other ways. Power consumption naturally surges and power companies adjust how much energy they produce accordingly. They do this by slowing a power plant's operations during off-peak hours. With electric cars coming online in the evening, they can act as a sort of flat line to the otherwise variant grid.
For example, when power consumption dips but production stays the same, the smart grid would effectively start charging certain vehicles, thus keeping the overall load constant. It's an ingenious idea – use electric vehicles as load regulators for a massive power grid.
[Image Source: Pixabay]
Where then do renewables come into play? For the US, the world's largest user of EVs according to Business Insider, transitioning the grid to fully renewable is rather far off. Throwing politics aside on that issue, renewable sources will likely only make up the baseline of the power grid for some time. This means that when renewables surge, the grid should always have consumers needing energy to keep up with the surge.
For other countries, however, surges from renewables present their own issues. Luckily, since charging of EVs mainly presents a nighttime loading issue, problems associated with renewables surges can be easily mitigated.
So, EVs may actually be good for the US power grid and others' power grids as well. It is taking some creative engineering to envision large consumer products like EVs as grid stabilizers on a grander scale – it's innovation at work.
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Written by Trevor English