In this week’s solar news: Bidirectional charging is ready to change the way you think about your home energy system and your electric bill is too dang high.

ford ev charger

Bidirectional charging is suddenly a thing

If you already have an electric vehicle (EV), you own a big battery that you park in your garage and plug into your home’s electrical system every night.

So why can’t your car battery back up your home’s electrical system?

Maybe it can.

That’s bidirectional charging, and it’s the next big thing.

Nissan, a forgotten pioneer in the EV market, just opened up the option for owners of the groundbreaking-but-dated Nissan Leaf.

Nissan was already talking up the idea of running your home off of your EV’s battery when it rolled the Leaf out in 2010. The capability is built into all models built in 2013. But it turns out that pulling energy from your car battery and putting it onto an active grid requires some regulation from national and state regulators. It has also taken a few years to get approval. That’s why Leaf owners need to install Fermata Energy’s newly approved FE-15 charger to use the feature (1).

On the other end of the EV spectrum from the compact Leaf is the hulking Ford F-150 Lightning. It’s probably the highest profile vehicle with bidirectional charging. It’s massive battery package provides the pickup with plenty of torque, but the automaker claims it can power a home for up to 10 carefully managed days.

In fact, Ford sent Lightnings down to Florida to help manage outages in the wake of Hurricane Ian. At least one owner posted videos of their home setup powered by Lightnings and achieved instant internet fame (2).

Ford might be getting all the press right now, but General Motors has announced its move into storage with its new GM Energy unit that goes well beyond four wheels. GM’s Silverado EV is expected to offer many of the same features as the F-150 Lightning, but the truck will be part of a larger ecosystem which will include a home storage component aimed directly at Tesla’s Powerwall business (3). The new unit also includes the rollout of a nationwide Ultium Charge 360 public charging service. GM has already enlisted Pilot/Flying J rest stops as a partner for the network (4).

A more community-focused use of bidirectional charging is being tested in Oakland, California. Schneider Electric is working with the California Energy Commission to implement the Bus Exportable Power Supply in a local library. Both EV and hydrogen-fueled buses will work with the system’s bidirectional charger to supply energy for filtered air conditioning in the event of heat or smoke conditions during an outage. The buses offer large charging capacity and the ability to go anywhere they’re needed, making them an ideal test case for public space backup energy storage (5).

In some ways, EVs are just very elaborate batteries with wheels attached. Finding new ways to use a buyer’s battery investment is the logical next step. V2B (vehicle to building), V2G (vehicle to grid), and V2X (vehicle to everything) technology is positioned to be an important new feature that manufacturers will use to make their EVs stand out in the coming years.

Of course, having a whole home battery installed in your home brings many more benefits than just an emergency backup, including shifting the energy a solar panel system produces from daylight hours to peak demand or overnight use. Drivers tend to have their cars out of their garages during the hours when their solar panels are most productive.

Right now, you can get bidirectional charging with the Nissan Leaf, Ford F-150 Lightning, Volkswagen’s ID.4 or Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV. New V2G vehicles are expected on the market soon.

utility lines

As utility companies raise rates, the U.S. braces for a winter of electrical discontent

There’s a good chance your electricity rate is high and getting higher. Texas and California are getting all the press, but they’re just the poster children for a nationwide trend (6,7).

“It’s not just you. Your neighbors, your friends across town, even local political leaders — everyone who gets their electricity from the power lines that run down the streets is seeing rates rise,” reported Boston’s WBUR this past month (8).

New Hampshire’s electricity rate doubled over the summer. Duke Energy, a company that has touted its green energy efforts for years, just won approval to raise their rates an average of $12 a month for their South Carolina customers. They pinned the blame on rising fossil fuel costs (9).

Not to be outdone, Georgia’s public service commission approved a 12% hike for customers of Georgia Power. The financial wreckage of Plant Vogtle, the first U.S. nuclear reactors set to go online in decades, looms over that state’s utility bills. The catastrophic $15 billion cost overruns were enough to bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Company, but Georgia Power will recover its losses through a gradual escalation of rates over the coming years that many expect to total 45% (10,11).

Much of the recent escalation is tied to the spike in the cost of natural gas rooted in the war in Ukraine, but the aging grid and uncertainty around supply chains for fuel make rising energy costs feel inevitable.

At the same time, the cost of renewables has plummeted, even before the effects of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 have kicked in. The economics of renewable energy should accelerate implementation. And as more, and cheaper, renewables come online in the next few years, rates should level out. That offers little comfort to the over 20 million families behind on their bills throughout the U.S. as days get shorter and temperatures drop (12,13).

The Weekly Sun Song

Bettye Lavette became an overnight success in 2004, after 40 years in the music business. She toured in her early days with Clyde Mcphatter and Otis Redding but fell into obscurity in the seventies and eighties. In 2003, A Woman Like Me, her first real album was released and won the W.C. Handy award for comeback album of the year. We’ve loved the several albums she’s released since then, but we’re ADT Solar, so we especially love Hello Sunshine.

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