Vehicle-to-gGrid charging might offer all the battery capacity the grid needs
Can your EV fix our fragile grid?
Solar and wind energy is getting cheaper and more widespread by the day. But we only get solar power when the sun shines and wind power when the wind blows. Finding ways to store energy generated during the daytime for use at night is a big part of the energy transition. Utilities are rushing to add batteries to their energy facilities throughout the U.S. and the global battery market is projected to quadruple over the next seven years.(1)
The challenge is, batteries are expensive and the minerals needed to make them are hard to come by. Of course, more and more people already have really big batteries attached to the electric vehicles (EVs) parked in their garages.
Scientists at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (IES) in the Netherlands think that your EV can solve the problem. In a recent study, they found that with as little as 12% participation (2) in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) programs, EVs could supply enough storage for grid demand by 2030. And it could be a big payoff for vehicle owners
V2G is the next big thing
More and more, homeowners want backup batteries of their own. Power grid reliability is down while electricity rates and outages are up. At the same time, federal incentives and state laws are making it much more likely that your next car is going to be an EV. V2G allows you to use your EV to power your home or to add power to a grid that is struggling to meet demand.
The key to V2G is bidirectional charging, which allows current to flow from a car battery back to the grid or the home. During an outage, the EV could keep the house powered. And when the demand for power on the grid is high enough, the vehicle owner could sell the energy stored in their EV back to the power grid for profit. Although the technology has been around for a while, it’s only now being approved by regulators and utilities, and V2g energy buyback deals are only available in a few test markets.
Even the most luxurious EVs are really just big batteries with wheels. The Tesla Powerwall has a 12.2 kWh capacity, while a maxed- out Ford F-150 Lightning has a capacity nearly 11 times that amount, clocking in at a stunning 131 kWh. (3) With proper management, that’s enough to keep an average-sized home running for 10 days.
Scientists at IES found that if EVs sales continue at the expected pace, just a fraction of the vehicles parked in American garages will be able to supply the necessary storage to stabilize the grid. They also project a robust market for diminished batteries from used EVs. Although their dwindling capacity might make them impractical in cars, these batteries can still be pulled from the vehicle and used for utility-scale storage, further stabilizing the grid.
Minnesota is going 100% clean energy
On February 7, Minnesota governor Tim Walz signed a law requiring the state’s energy to be 100% carbon free by 2040. The law outlines a gradual shift away from carbon, rising to 80% carbon free in 2030 and 90% in 2035. (1)
Minnesota Public Radio reports that the state’s biggest utilities are largely on-board with the legislation. One reason is that the law accelerates an existing goal of going carbon-free by 2050 by merely 10 years. The legislation also provides off-ramps by allowing the public service commission to delay deadlines when enforcement would cause excessive rate hikes or impair the reliability of the grid. It also allows for the purchase of offsets for carbon emissions when needed.
Accommodations were also made for the smaller electric cooperatives that dot the state. Many of those have existing long-term contracts with power suppliers that depend on fossil fuel or lack the resources to implement the changes quickly. Under the law, they’ll need to be just 60% carbon free by 2030, whereas the major suppliers will have to hit 80% by that date. Regardless of size, all utilities will still need to be carbon free by 2040.
The law makes an important distinction between renewable energy — which includes solar, wind, and hydro — and carbon-free, which includes nuclear energy. The state currently has two nuclear power plants that are expected to be part of Minnesota’s energy mix for decades to come, but current state law prohibits building new nuclear plants.
The state is the eleventh to put its commitment to clean energy into binding law, joining California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. Maine and Nevada have legislated goals, but there aren’t clear requirements. (1) Several other states have executive orders in place for zero carbon emissions, but those can be cancelled or changed with each new administration, making long-term planning difficult. With the 2022 elections in the rear-view mirror, guessing the next state to join the 100% club has become a popular bet in the climate community. Michigan and Maryland are frontrunners, but New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy may have tipped his hand on the 15th when he announced a fifteen-year acceleration of the state’s climate goals in a Tweet, aiming for zero carbon by 2035. (3)
The Weekly Sunsong
Burt Bacharach died this past week. He defined more than a sound, but a certain vibe for a whole generation. If you put on any of the many hits he penned for the likes of Dionne Warwick or Dusty Springfield, you can immediately see the clothes, the shoes, and the car that goes with the song.
In his honor we just did some talking to the sun and said we didn’t like the way he got things done. Sleeping on the job.
Here’s the iconic scene from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid featuring one of his best-known songs, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head