Plugging In to Renewable Communities
What if you
could virtually eliminate your reliance on petroleum and the associated
concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and national security without
giving up your personal car? Better yet, what if the infrastructure
to power this fossil fuel free vehicle was tied to your neighborhood
electric grid, one that distributed electricity generated from renewable
energy to your home and
"plug-in" hybrid electric car? Your advanced
plug-in vehicle would be designed to draw electricity from the combined
renewable energy grid or a plug-in renewable energy system. Plug-in
vehicles are like today's hybrid vehicles, but with bigger, more costly
batteries and a smart control strategy. Now consider that in this
community, not only would renewable energy (RE) power the homes and
businesses, but buildings would be built for maximum efficiency and
on-site solar heating and electricity generation to use zero or near
zero energy from the grid. Most of the pollution, health and national
security concerns of fossil fuels would be a thing of thing of the past.
Researchers are quickly moving toward developing the technologies to support just this type of sustainable transportation infrastructure and RE-based community. Many of these innovations are here today, and we catch the first glimpse of what these communities might look like as more builders construct developments in which most or all of the homes are solar and use near-zero energy. The paradigm shifting difference in the renewable energy community to come rests in the single integrated, RE-based energy system for transportation and residential/commercial buildings.
Driving Vehicle-to-Grid Technology.
Because this renewable community will be connected to a grid that operates in two directions both distributing and accepting electricity, the next generation hybrid electric vehicles will have the ability to store excess electricity for timely return to the grid. We call this "two-way" plug-in a vehicle-to-grid hybrid. Utilities spend a tremendous amount for capacity to continuously balance supply and demand across the grid or provide backup electricity during outages and peak demand periods.
Because batteries are particularly effective for this kind of critical
service, utilities might pay Electric Vehicle owners to "borrow" energy
Combined with fuel savings, this income could pay back the
more expensive battery cost within relatively few years.
As federal regulators and electric utilities work to revamp the inadequate North American electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, they have the opportunity to wean Americans from our nation's spiraling reliance on fossil fuels for powering both buildings and transportation by creating mechanisms to encourage clean distributed generation, including E-V's. This combined power grid will enable utilities to tap a source of competitively priced backup electricity, while investors will have a means of profiting from the inevitable transition to renewable energy. Batteries, such as those used in a electric vehicles are one of many new clean and distributed resources that could contribute to a smart grid of the future. This smart grid would communicate continuously with both suppliers and consumers of electricity to maintain the most secure, cost-effective system. It will require cost effective advanced interconnection equipment that allows full functionality of a plug-in hybrid. Consensus based standards for these vehicles also must be developed.
How transportation based on renewable energy powered communities may solve our addiction to fossil resources.
What makes the renewable energy-based community of the future unique is the integration of the electric utility system with a system to power our personal vehicles.
The interconnected energy system can flow two ways. A "two-way" plug-in hybrid vehicle (also known as a vehicle-to-grid vehicle) is plugged into an electric outlet in the garage of the home or workplace, allowing electricity to flow from the energy management system (traditionally the grid) to the vehicle and vice versa. An energy management operator can broad cast a control signal to any number of E-V's (including fleets) to give or request electricity. Each vehicle's smart control system monitors its ability to give and receive electricity and communicates this information with the operator.
Envisioning the RE-Powered Community
Imagine living in an RE-based community in a few years that emphasizes low utility bills and reduced petroleum use. It is designed using sustainable practices and materials to minimize the environmental damage of site development and conventional energy and water use and to promote quality of life.
Your zero or near zero energy home is constructed for maximum comfort and energy efficiency, with appliances and heating and cooling systems that dramatically reduce the electricity demand. Rooftop photovoltaic (PV) power generating systems supply most of the little energy the house does need. Excess PV generation is used to charge your E-V or is sold back to your electric utility company. The E-V in the garage operates mostly on $O.03 per mile electricity rather than $O.lO per mile gasoline. The hybrid vehicle's batteries store extra electricity for the home as a backup to the PV system. In this way, the vehicle actually may serve as a mobile utility. The local utility generates energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources the small amount of grid electricity your home may need. What little fuel the E-V needs may also be generated from renewable sources, such as ethanol or biodiesel in the near term, or hydrogen for the vehicle's fuel cell in the
Nearby workplaces and commuter stations could also have twoway electrical outlet "docks" to enable battery charging or, when the E-V
concept car is not in operation for long periods, to provide electricity back to the grid. Many high tech companies already have auxiliary generators because they need more consistent power than the grid provides, and such companies might be delighted to rely on employee car batteries instead. As for the town, our streets will be clean and quiet because
E-V concepts would run on their electric motors much more than regular hybrids. Operating in electric motor mode would also mean greatly reduced emissions from the vehicles themselves.