Solar power adds punch to vehicle-to-grid systems

Vehicle-to-grid technology aims to provide a seamless pathway for individual and fleet owners to use that stored energy on site or sell it to grid operators

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average electric vehicle in the U.S. is on the road only two to four hours daily. The rest of the time it sits idle, its powerful battery packed with energy.

That’s the scenario driving today’s race to develop vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. In the near future, millions of electric vehicles will be in the hands of consumers, businesses, institutions and government agencies, cumulatively storing utility-scale amounts of energy.

The challenge is to develop systems that provide a seamless pathway for individual and fleet owners to use that stored energy on site or sell it to grid operators. For utilities, V2G in combination with smart technology provides more flexibility to handle peak use as regional demand grows, without the need to build expensive – and these days, often controversial – new centralized peaking plants.

As illustrated by a demonstration V2G at the University of Delaware, a smart system involves communication between vehicles, charging stations and grid operators, so that vehicle owners charge their batteries during off-peak periods when rates are lower, and contribute energy at other times. Potentially, the vehicle could be programmed to charge and contribute automatically.

Compensation for the electricity they provide to the grid makes the system attractive to vehicle owners, as is the potential for using stored energy on site during peak rate periods. The gains are especially promising for businesses, which can use V2G to reduce their use of electricity during high-rate periods for commercial users.

That brings us to the positive impact that V2G technology will have on electric vehicle ownership. In effect, V2G enables vehicle owners to offset the cost of their vehicle by selling and/or using battery-stored energy, giving them a significant advantage over liquid-fuel vehicles.

If you think of homes as mini-microgrids, the household market for V2G is already on the verge of maturing with home electric vehicle chargers and remote communications packages being integrated with other smart-enabled household appliances and systems, including solar panels.

The addition of solar power and other forms of renewable energy to the V2G equation opens up a whole new aspect to the value-added angle. Solar installations at individual homes and businesses are becoming commonplace, as part of a broader trend toward distributed energy generation. As a result, many individual customers have the potential to become renewable energy grid suppliers.

The cost of small scale solar installations has already dropped significantly within the past few years and more gains are in sight, creating more incentive for vehicle owners with solar-friendly properties to join the solar and V2G markets.

The solar angle also provides utility companies that integrate V2G with an environmental benefit, as more vehicle batteries are charged with renewable energy.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Tina Casey, senior reporter at CleanTechnica and The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

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About the author

Tina Casey

I specialize in renewable energy, military sustainability, advanced technology, biofuels, and water issues for and, where I'm a Senior Reporter. My articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Formerly a press officer for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, I'm currently Deputy Director of Public Information for Union County, NJ. Follow: @TinaMCasey.
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