The Great Dunchideock Blackout Saga

We recently suffered a power outage, or power cut as we prefer to call such things here in the UK. This wasn’t any old power outage either. Let me explain.

The lights went out at 17:44 on Friday April 11th 2014. I hurriedly powered down everything in the lab and office except my laptop and our broadband router, which was by then being powered from the battery in an uninterruptible power supply. When the lights hadn’t come back on a few minutes later I telephoned our local Distribution Network Operator (DNO for short), Western Power Distribution, to enquire what the problem was, and when it might be fixed. WPD’s automated system suggested that our power should be restored by about 21:00 that evening.

9 o’clock came and went, by which time the batteries in my laptop and UPS were flat. I called WPD again, to be informed that the latest estimate for the time at which I would be able to get connected to the internet once again would be 01:00 on Saturday morning. I figured I’d allow WPD a bit of leeway, and eventually went to bed having set the alarm on my smartphone for 02:00. The alarm went off, but the lights still hadn’t come back on.  I phoned Western Power again to be informed that things should be back to normal in an hour or so. Bleary eyed I returned to bed.

When I arose next morning I wasn’t in need of any lights, but my router and laptop were working once again. There was, however, the continuous drone of an engine audible not too far away so I set out to investigate by following the sound, and here is what I discovered:

Generator on the track to Haldon Belvedere on April 12th 2014

Diesel generator on the track to Haldon Belvedere on April 12th 2014

Another call to Western Power Distribution elicited some further information. I managed to speak to WPD’s standby manager for the day, who explained what had happened the previous evening. Initally over 300 properties had been without electricity following the operation of an automatic circuit recloser mounted on pole NLT1M in Alphington, as shown at the top right of the map of WPD’s network below (click the image for a larger version), and in this photo I took subsequently:

Schneider pole mounted recloser and air break isolator in Alphington

Schneider U-Series pole mounted recloser and an air break isolator in Alphington

WPD map of 11 kV and 33 kV cables Southwest of Exeter

WPD map of 11 kV (red) and 33 kV (green) cables south west of Exeter

At that point everything powered via the 11 kV 3 phase (thick red) cables running from top right to bottom left of WPD’s map was without electricity. By around 21:00 the problem had been isolated to somewhere in the bottom left corner of the map, and power now reached as far as pole NLK19, near the north east corner of The Lord Haldon Hotel car park.

Pole 31NLK19, whilst The Lord Haldon Hotel and The Haldon Belvedere were running from WPD generators

Pole 31NLK19, draped with extra cables, whilst The Lord Haldon Hotel and The Haldon Belvedere were running from WPD generators

Unfortunately the hotel itself, which had a wedding reception booked that night, and everyone else in our corner of the village of Dunchideock and Haldon Hill were still without power, and WPD still didn’t know where the fault was. I am assured by a local resident that once it had got dark his wife noticed some arcing at the top of an electricity pole in a field behind his house, so he drove to the hotel car park and informed the WPD engineers gathered there about her discovery. The problem ultimately proved to be a faulty pole top cable termination, shown below in situ together with some inquisitive lambs:

A 48 year old cable termination at the top of pole NLK20

Youthful interest is shown in a big hole in the ground

Some youthful interest is shown in a big hole in the ground

By the time the likelihood that this was indeed the ultimate cause of the problem had been established time was pressing. According to WPD they have a self imposed 12 hour time limit on turning the power back on after any interruption in supply, and there was no way this problem would be fixed within that timeframe. That being the case some generators would be required, which presented WPD with another big headache. It seems there had been some other problems in Devon on the same day, and there weren’t enough generators in Exeter to go around, so WPD brought some more in from Torbay. That still wasn’t adequate for the scale of the problem, so they brought some more in from Taunton. Even that wasn’t sufficient, so finally they had to hire a few more from Bristol, one of which was emitting the dulcet tones that greeted me on Saturday morning. Here’s one of WPD’s own generators, that was located a bit further up the road near the entrance to the hotel:

WPD Generator hard at work outside Pen Hill Cottage

WPD diesel generator hard at work outside Pen Hill Cottage

All in all, by the time everyone affected had their electricity supply restored, which in our case seems to have been at around 3:30 on Saturday morning, 9 diesel generators were scattered across the north side and ridge of Haldon Hill. WPD assured me there was no danger of any further power cuts, since every 12 hours or so they would be hauling a bowser around the local vicinity to top up the tanks of any generator that might be running low on diesel fuel.

Whilst they didn’t have such a thing last time I checked, during the recent winter storms, I was also informed that Western Power now provide an online power cut map. This is how it looked on the morning of Saturday April 12th 2014:

Western Power Distribution power cut map at 08:39 BST on Saturday April 12th

Western Power Distribution power cut map at 08:39 BST on Saturday April 12th

 

It seems as though “running off a generator” doesn’t count as a “power cut”, because Dunchideock isn’t on that map, all of which meant that WPD could now fix the problem as and when time permitted. Here’s how things were looking by Sunday evening:

By Monday morning the epoxy resin in the Lovink red box had set, the big hole in the ground was filled in, and we were all back on mains power once again. All of which raises a few questions, in my mind at least.

In my conversations with WPD’s duty engineers I enquired whether this particular failure might be in any way attributable to the recent wet and windy winter weather here in South West England I alluded to earlier. I was told that while a causal link with any single failure was impossible to establish, it was conceivable that WPD’s electricity distribution network had suffered additional “stress” due to increased lightning strikes and the potential for trees to be more easily toppled by strong winds whilst their roots were sitting in sodden soil. I also idly enquired about the stresses placed on the network by renewable generation in the South West, but that story will require an article of its own at the very least.

In the meantime I’ve been pondering how this saga would have panned out if some of the homes in Dunchideock had already been in possession of an electric vehicle and some vehicle to home or even vehicle to grid technology. Since the powers that be here in the UK don’t seem to be wild about either of those concepts maybe a pile of shiny new lithium ion batteries from Tesla in the corner of each garage in Dunchideock might be more realistic to speculate about, or at the very least some second user EV batteries that are at least receiving some R&D funding on this side of the Atlantic? In that case perhaps we should add distributed storage to grid (or S2G for short) to our list of TLAs under consideration?

The lights wouldn’t have gone out in any V2H or storage equipped home. Their broadband would have kept on working too, so information about the failure could have been swiftly despatched to WPD’s control centre to enable the location of the fault to be pinpointed more swiftly. If some people had V2G and/or S2G installed as well, and subject to being suitably reimbursed for their public spiritedness, they could have kept their neighbours’ lights on as well as their own provided that WPD’s equipment was capable of sectionalising their network with greater granularity than at present. As luck would have it there is a pile of such equipment already in Dunchideock, although it’s only in the V2G lab at the moment rather than attached to any of the WPD poles I’ve mentioned apart from the one in Alphington, or in the corner of anyone else’s garage in Dunchideock. Here’s what a remote terminal unit looks like from the outside:

A Lucy Switchgear Gemini Remote Terminal Unit plus PakNet PAD

A Lucy Switchgear Gemini Remote Terminal Unit plus PakNet PAD

and here’s what the ARM powered CPU board on the inside looks like:

Gemini ARM CPU card

A Lucy Switchgear Gemini ARM CPU card, connected to the internet

As you can see, in actual fact it’s not a whole lot different to a Raspberry Pi, or the guts of the average smartphone for that matter:

A Raspberry Pi model B, connected to the internet

A Raspberry Pi model B, connected to the internet

Hence such a piece of electronics wouldn’t in and of itself add a whole lot to the price of an electric vehicle and/or a garage in Dunchideock, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter.

In conclusion, I also cannot help but wonder how much the Great Dunchideock Blackout cost Western Power Distribution, how much the evidently changing climate in this part of the world is costing and will cost them, and how their electricity distribution network is coping with the assorted stresses and strains generated by all the renewable power sources currently being tacked onto it down here in not so Sunny South West England that do not currently have any form of energy storage associated with them.

Used Nissan EV Batteries Now Provide Grid Scale Storage

Nissan have recently announced that:

The manmade island of Yumeshima in western Japan’s Osaka is now home to the world’s first large-scale energy storage system, a project that also highlights the potential to reuse electric vehicle batteries.

Hikari-no-Mori – or Forest of Light – is a mega-solar project of 36,000 solar panels built on top of a landfill and managed by Sumitomo Corporation.

The first paragraph is not strictly accurate, since as we reported a couple of years ago, such things have been in use in Spain for a while now. Sumitomo’s press release about the project was nearer the mark stating instead that:

Sumitomo Corporation has developed and installed the world’s first large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles.

Nissan did however also release the following video, so we can see for ourselves what the partnership has in fact developed:

According to Sumitomo once more:

Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy output fluctuation from the nearby “Hikari-no-mori,” solar farm, and will aim to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future. This project has been selected as a model project for “Verification of the battery storage control to promote renewable energy” for the fiscal year 2013 by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan.

Sumitomo Corporation created the joint venture company, “4R Energy Corporation”, in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in September 2010, to address the secondary use of EV lithium-ion batteries. The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. This prototype system (600kW/400kWh) consists of sixteen used EV batteries.

The 600kW/400kWh rating of the Japanese energy storage system compares unfavourably with the 1.1MW/560kWh of the lithium-ion battery Saft system installed in Spain, so it can’t even claim to be the largest such system in the world, but the French system uses new batteries rather than ones that are no longer up to the job of powering an electric vehicle. Here’s what the 4R system looks like:

A glimpse inside a 4R Energy used EV battery storage system

A glimpse inside a 4R Energy used EV battery storage system

It seems to have 12 battery packs per container, although Nissan claim that:

A joint venture between Sumitomo and Nissan called 4R Energy – Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle – uses 16 lithium-ion batteries from EVs to help monitor energy fluctuations and store the solar farm’s energy output.

Judging by both Nissan’s video and Sumitomo’s picture there looks to be two of those on the man-made island, so maybe the actual number is in fact 24?

Continuing with some further (hopefully accurate!) quotes from Nissan’s press release:

Natural energy sources, such as solar and wind, vary in strength and frequency, and the innovative battery management system developed by 4R is the first of its kind, says the firm’s President Eiji Makino.

“Depending on use, a battery’s degree and rate of deterioration and the battery’s condition vary by vehicle,” says Makino. “So 4R has created a technology that allows us to have optimal control in regulating those conditions.”

The project is part of a three-year test under Japan’s Environment Ministry to expand renewable energy resources and power grid management. In Japan, electricity liberalization will be realized after 2016.

The batteries have up to 70% of capacity remaining – the average left after 100,000 kilometers or five years of driving.

Sumitomo General Manager Norihiko Nonaka said his company, in cooperation with 4R, expects to make the results of the project commercially viable in 5 years or so.

“The electricity-value-chain is divided into 3 sections: electricity generation, transmission and distribution. We would like to focus on electricity generation and transmission. If we rely on renewables to obtain energy – like solar and wind – they don’t always generate the necessary amount of energy and that may cause an issue with supply-and-demand,” said Nonaka.

“On the other hand, if the cost of batteries is too high and is economically inefficient, 4R will have to continue to work and investigate the situation and market in the long term, about 5 years or maybe after 2020.

In conclusion I fear I may have to disagree slightly with Sumitomo for a change. Why should “the electricity-value-chain” not also include community renewable energy projects such as the South Brent Community Energy Society’s 250 kW wind turbine, which is located a few miles down the A38 from the V2G offices, and of which I am a proud (albeit modest) shareholder?

Independent Body of Experts Needed to Inform Energy Policy

The Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University have announced this week that:

The UK’s energy industry is fragmented and a ‘system architect’ is needed to inform technical decisions and take a holistic view of the energy system in order to secure the country’s future energy supply, experts are warning. Now academics at Newcastle University are calling on the Government to create an independent, expert body to inform energy policy.

The recommendation is included in a briefing note on energy policy, being sent today, 6 May 2014, to relevant MPs and other organisations, outlining a number of concerns about the fundamental problems facing the UK’s energy market. These include: energy storage and distribution; energy pricing models; lack of competition; and water use in electricity generation.

The press release goes on to quote Professor Phil Taylor, Director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, as saying that:

Energy is a hot topic at the moment and the Government has made some positive steps to open up competition in the market, but much more work is required – and quickly. There’s an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions while protecting the UK’s future energy security. It’s vital that politicians move beyond short-term political soundbites and instead support those initiatives that could make a real and sustainable difference.

The University is calling on the Government to establish a group of experts that can take a long-term view about what is required and inform technical decisions and energy policy in a more effective manner than the current situation. For instance, debate among policymakers focuses almost exclusively on issues of affordability and emissions reductions, ignoring the vital issue of the energy sector’s use of water. This thinking risks locking the UK into a future in which water availability could put energy security at risk, and power stations could be forced to reduce production or even shut down if there isn’t sufficient water available to keep them safely operational.

The briefing note itself elucidates:

The Energy Act received Royal Assent on 18 December 2013. The Act is designed to establish a legislative framework for the delivery of secure, affordable and low carbon energy. However, we are concerned that the Act does not take into account some of the more fundamental problems facing the energy market, putting the sustainability of the UK’s energy systems at risk. We believe there are five areas that need further consideration:

  1. Energy storage and distribution
  2. Energy pricing models
  3. Competition
  4. Water use in electricity generation
  5. The need for a system architect

Here at V2G we have long championed the cause of distributed energy storage, so we have nothing to quibble about with this from the first bullet:

The national electricity network… cannot feasibly be replaced. But it will struggle to cope with the substantial additional demands likely to be placed on it over the coming decades, such as decarbonisation and additional electrification of transport and heat demand.

Policymakers and energy providers need to do more to understand how and why customers use and generate energy, so they can look at ways to enable behaviour change and reduce demand on the network in peak times.

  • We need to find ways to store energy efficiently and effectively when plentiful and low carbon so it can be released during periods of high demand, high carbon or to keep the lights on after major storms have damaged network assets.
  • In addition, smart grids… will provide better understanding of when and why people use energy in the ways they do.

Moving on to competition:

The way energy provision is managed needs to be transformed. Currently, companies that develop and build energy generators, whether wind farms, solar panels or tidal turbines, have to sell the energy they produce on the wholesale market. This puts them at a serious disadvantage to the big six energy suppliers, who can generate energy and then sell it back to themselves at preferential rates, before selling it on to customers at a profit.

Agreed. Pricing models next:

  • Currently, energy companies make very small margins on each unit of energy produced, so they need to sell volume in order to make a profit. This leads to a bad deal for consumers, as there is no incentive for companies to help customers reduce their energy use.
  • Instead, energy providers should be rewarded for providing tools and techniques that help customers use energy efficiently and cost-effectively.

So far so good, but how might that second bullet be implemented in practice?

The Government needs to work with the energy industry to fundamentally change the way energy is priced, to enable us to move from a system where generation follows demand to one where demand is based on the cost of generation, storage and distribution at any given time.

For us here at V2G this is the 64,000 ExaPound (E£64k for short) question. That’s very easy to say Phil, but how on Earth do you achieve it in practice? Given the fact that I sit on international standards committees that discuss this sort of thing on a regular basis, perhaps I might rephrase the question as “What international standards for deregulated energy markets will be required in order to facilitate a system in which demand follows generation + storage at any given time?”

The Guardian “Energy Industry” section has published an article on this topic, but they seem to me to miss that vital (IMHO!) point. They lead off with a picture of some electricity pylons with no storage in sight, and say that:

The government must urgently establish a strategic authority to oversee the future growth of Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure, a study argues on Tuesday .

Academics at Newcastle University challenge the government’s market-based approach, saying the £100bn needed to secure energy security is not being delivered by a fragmented system that lacks central direction.

The academics, led by Prof Phil Taylor, argue that the country needs a “systems architect” and that energy, at least for the bulk of the population, is too cheap, which is leading to waste.

While the Labour party has already said it wants an energy security board, one leading figure in the industry has said that Taylor was highlighting that “nobody is in charge” of the country’s energy policy.

The Guardian doesn’t mention the word “standards” once, and neither do Newcastle University. Here are their concluding bullet points:

  • There are a number of problems facing the energy market, and policymakers need to think seriously about the wide ranging and long lasting effect their decisions will have.
  • The Government needs to ensure that the price of energy reflects the cost of storing and distributing it, as well as generating it, and that those firms that provide energy to the wholesale market are rewarded fairly with respect to those who sell it direct to consumers.
  • In addition, the impact of energy generation on water availability must be considered to avoid a future in which the UK faces power shortages and even blackouts.
  • Finally, the Government should make better use of independent experts when considering energy policy.

Hear, hear! To that last bullet point at the very least! For the Guardian and anybody else out there that might be interested, here’s what some storage in Spain looks like:

Saft 1 MW Li-ion storage module in northern Spain

Saft 1 MW Li-ion storage module at Tudela in northern Spain

Nick Clegg Promises £500 million for ULEVs

The UK Government has announced in a press release that the:

Deputy Prime Minister takes ‘green’ cars up a gear!

The government will invest £500 million to boost the ultra low emission vehicle industry and help drivers both afford and feel confident using electric cars, the Deputy Prime Minister announced today.

The automotive sector is a success story of the UK’s economic recovery, with a new vehicle rolling off a UK production line every 20 seconds and the industry is worth £11.2 billion to the economy. The production of ultra low emissions vehicles (ULEV) is a major part of growth both now and for the future.

The investment of £500 million between 2015 and 2020 will create jobs, reduce emissions and set the agenda for the industry, for our towns and cities, and for motorists, so that Britain remains at the forefront of green technology.

The £500 million on offer will be divided up amongst four target areas which the press release itemises as follows:

Create ‘Ultra Low City Status’
Local areas coming up with the most ambitious plans can win a share of £35 million to make the leap to becoming ultra low. Winning cities could, for example, incentivise drivers of green cars by letting them use bus lanes or allowing them to park for free. Additional funding of £50 million will also be available for local areas to invest in cleaner taxis and buses.

Create jobs and innovate
We will invest £100 million in research and development in ULEV to cement the UK’s position as a leader in the development of these technologies. The UK’s automotive industry has undergone a renaissance in recent years and we have the potential to emerge as a world leader in the development, design and manufacture of green vehicles. This investment will help create skilled British jobs and have further positive impact down the supply chain.

End ‘range anxiety’
£32 million funding boost for charging infrastructure including plans to install rapid chargepoints across the ‘M’ and ‘A’ road network by 2020 so that drivers can find a rapid chargepoint when they need one. Rapid chargepoints mean that a car can be charged in as little as 20 minutes.

Save consumers money
To encourage more people to use ULEV, car grants of £5,000 off the upfront cost will be extended. This is worth at least £200 million.

More detailed information on reducing “range anxiety” reveals that:

The average journey made by motorists is just 7 miles, with the typical range of a pure electric car being around 100 miles. For the longer journeys, there will be a rapid chargepoint (20 minutes to charge up) at every motorway service station by the end of 2014, and a network of 500 rapid chargers across the country by March 2015 – the best network in Europe.

Accompanying Nick Clegg on his recent visit to the  the Transport Research Laboratory was Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. He had this to say on the economic benefits of the planned investment:

Our economic plan is delivering a growing economy, rising employment and making Britain a more attractive place to invest. But there is still a large amount to do to ensure our recovery is sustainable and prosperity is secure.

That is why it’s right that we squeeze spending elsewhere to invest in the interests of the future.

Ultra low emission vehicles bring together our most successful manufacturing sectors with our biggest long-term challenge – climate change. Britain can be the leading country in the world in developing, manufacturing and using ULEV. This half billion pound government investment will help to ensure we rise to the challenge.

From a personal point of view my own average journey is a lot longer than the figure quoted by the government.  I don’t drive in cities, I don’t commute to work, I shop largely online,and most of my mileage involves journeys over 100 miles. What would suit me best would be the ability to recharge an electric vehicle at any and all of the surf beaches along the north coast of South West England, but for some strange reason Nick and Danny make no mention of that!

They also make no mention of the possibility of any of those shiny new rapid chargepoints, or any other type of chargepoint for that matter, supporting vehicle to grid technology. It looks as though I’ll have to give Nick and Danny a ring and challenge them to part with some of their £100 million R&D budget to help fund a project along the lines that interest me!

Jaguar Land Rover Installs UK’s Largest Rooftop Solar Panel Array

We reported on Land Rover’s Defender EV project a few month’s ago,and now we have news about their use of renewable energy in the manufacture of internal combustion engines. Jaguar Land Rover have announced in a press release that:

Jaguar Land Rover has completed the installation of the UK’s largest rooftop solar panel array at its new state-of-the art Engine Manufacturing Centre at i54 South Staffordshire. The new facility has been designed with sustainability embedded throughout and has recently been awarded BREEAM’s ‘Excellent’ rating for the design stage of the assessment for sustainable buildings.

More than 21,000 photovoltaic panels, with a capacity of 5.8MW, have been fixed to the roof of the Engine Manufacturing Centre, with plans to increase this to over 6.3MW by the end of the year. It is estimated that the system will generate more than 30% of the Engine Manufacturing Centre’s energy requirements.

Here’s what just some of all those solar PV panels look like:

The Largest Rooftop Solar Panel Array in the UK

The Largest Rooftop Solar Panel Array in the UK

Trevor Leeks, the Operations Director of JLR’s Engine Manufacturing Centre said that:

Our world-class facility showcases the latest sustainable technologies and innovations. The completion of the UK’s largest rooftop solar panel installation here at the Engine Manufacturing Centre is just one example of this.

As the first manufacturer to win the ‘Responsible Business of the Year’ last year, environmental innovation lies at the heart of Jaguar Land Rover’s business.

The Electric Defender, however, is conspicuous only by its absence from the rest of the press release, which continues:

The state-of-the-art Engine Manufacturing Centre is the first new plant that Jaguar Land Rover has built from the ground up. The site represents an investment of more than £500 million and will create almost 1400 new jobs by the time the plant reaches full capacity. The world-class plant will manufacture the first family of premium, advanced technology engines, Ingenium, to be entirely designed and built in-house by Jaguar Land Rover for exclusive use in the company’s future vehicles. The Jaguar XE, debuting in 2015, will be the first vehicle equipped with these four-cylinder engines.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Engine Manufacturing Centre uses cutting-edge heating and lighting systems designed to minimise energy demand through the use of insulated cladding, to maximise daylight through the roof design and to harness natural ventilation through the use of automatic louvers. Extensive energy monitoring facilities in the plant continually analyse the amount of energy being used and identify opportunities to reduce that energy consumption, for both electricity and natural gas.

Building 30% of a range of 4 cylinder engines using renewable energy is a step in the right direction. One cannot help but wonder, however, when the day might arrive that Electric Defenders are constructed using 100% renewable energy?

UK Smart Grid Vision Lukewarm on V2G

Last week the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy & Climate Change published their new “Smart Grid Vision and Routemap“. According to DECC’s introduction to the document it:

Sets out the wide ranging benefits that smart grids will bring, for example: minimising consumer bills; allowing consumers to play a more active role in managing the energy system; increasing energy security; helping to facilitate the integration of low carbon technologies; and supporting economic growth.

 

Great Britain is already recognised as a European leader with respect to the investment in smart grid research and demonstration projects and has begun the nationwide rollout of smart meters, which will help improve network management and facilitate demand response. The Smart Grid Vision and Routemap outlines what action is now needed to build on this initial success to ensure the benefits are realised as soon as possible.

Delving into the routemap itself, I searched for any substantive reference to electric vehicles in general, or vehicle to grid technology in particular. Here’s what I managed to dig up. Firstly a diagram illustrating where EVs fit into the grand design of the future Great British Smart Grid:

February 2014 UK "Smart Grid Vision and Routemap" graphic

February 2014 UK "Smart Grid Vision and Routemap" graphic

Click on the image to see a larger version, where you will note it is anticipated that the “Traditional Distribution Network Operator, managing a largely passive network” will be transformed into a “Future Distribution System Operator, managing an active network supporting local balancing & system optimisation”. Electric vehicles are down in the extreme bottom left hand corner, under the heading of “Flexible Demand”, apparently totally separate from either “Energy Storage” or even “Distributed Storage”.

Secondly there is a forecast for the future growth in the number of EVs humming along the UK’s highways and byways, which looks like this:

February 2014 OLEV projection for number of electric vehicles deployed in the UK

February 2014 OLEV projection for number of electric vehicles deployed in the UK

The significant bullet points in the document that mention electric vehicles seem to think that an EV is much like a heat pump. A future British smart grid will:

  • Minimise consumer bills – more efficient use of network assets helps reduce the need to invest in costly infrastructure and ultimately reduces the costs passed through to consumer bills. It is estimated that by 2050, smart grids will reduce the cost of additional distribution reinforcement needed to accommodate the connection of low carbon technologies such as heat pumps, solar PV and electric vehicles by between £2.5bn and £12bn (a 20 to 30 per cent reduction)
  • Enable new low carbon technology to be deployed – heat pumps and electric vehicles will deliver significant carbon reductions, but will increase demand on the electricity network. Using smart grid technology to phase operating times, these devices can be incorporated into the network in conjunction with distributed generation to balance supply and demand, reducing the need for costly network reinforcement.

Finally there is a reference to another document, “Driving the future today – a strategy for ultra-low emission vehicles in the UK” from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, which contains a few more bullet points about electric vehicles combined with smart grids:

  • The mass adoption of ULEVs will have significant implications for the energy sector at both a local and a national level. As the number of plug-in vehicles on our roads increases, so will the demand for electricity, placing additional pressures on the electricity system.
  • However, ULEVs can also help to balance the demand for electricity at peak periods and support the efficient use of energy by consumers. This will be facilitated by the introduction of intelligent power supply networks (smart grids) and the roll out of electricity smart meters across all domestic properties in the UK by 2020.
  • The majority of plug-in vehicle owners will charge their vehicles at home, at night time, during the off-peak period. This is not only most convenient for drivers, but also maximises the environmental and economic benefits of plug-in vehicles by using cheaper, lower carbon night-time electricity generation.
  • To help people charge at home as easily as possible, the Government is ensuring that smart metering in Great Britain includes the functionality to support charging of plug-in vehicles. This will allow recharging to happen when it is cheapest for consumers and the energy system (subject to appropriate technology in the chargepoint or plug-in vehicle).
  • Plug-in vehicles could also act as distributed energy storage during periods when renewable (or nuclear) electricity generation exceeds demand. This could happen during the life of the vehicle or as a potential end-of-life use for batteries. There may even be the potential for these vehicles to be used as an energy store, to power the house or feed electricity back to the grid at peak periods.

At long last a reference to something resembling V2G, or at the very least V2H! Moving on to page 71 of “Driving the future today” I finally found what I was searching for, an explicit (if somewhat grudging) reference to V2G technology. I reproduce it here in full:

Vehicle to home and vehicle to grid

As the smart grid and battery technologies develop, there may be the potential for plug-in vehicles to act as backup energy sources for homes and supplement the grid during peak demand periods. Nissan already offers a ‘power control system’ to its customers in Japan which allows their LEAF car to power a house for up to two days from its battery pack. Development of this technology was brought forward following the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.

 

There remain issues about the potential impact of taking charge from vehicles on battery life and the investment necessary to facilitate this on a large scale. However, Government will continue to talk to industry and researchers in this area and monitor developments.

Storage has the technical ability to provide a number of benefits to the electricity system – for example, smoothing supply profiles from variable generation and potentially reducing constraint costs by allowing generation to run during periods of low demand. It can also potentially save or defer network upgrade costs that may be required in the future to meet peak demand. Sixteen organisations have recently been awarded a share of £2 million by Government to help develop innovative storage solutions for energy. This funding is helping to drive forward innovation and encourage private sector investment.

The only trouble then is that none of those sixteen projects mention V2G or V2H, although both the the EVEREST project and Aston University’s Hybrid Batteries to Grid project refer to “‘Second Life’ EV batteries” but unfortunately not to EV batteries in situ. It rather sounds as though “Storage to Grid” (or S2G for short) is a more likely prospect here in the United Kingdom than fully fledged V2G.

Tesla “Is Going After Utilities”

It appears as though Elon Musk has had yet another bright idea. Following on from PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, he now intends to go into the energy storage business. According to Bloomberg News last week:

Tesla Motors Inc.’s Elon Musk, already taking on the auto and aerospace industries, is going after utilities by seeking to drive down the cost of storing energy through building cheaper batteries.

The electric carmaker said in a Feb. 26 filing it’s developed a battery to store power for homes, commercial sites and utilities, the same day as announcing plans to invest as much as $5 billion in the world’s largest battery factory. The Palo Alto, California-based company is seeking to cut the cost of lithium-ion batteries by at least 30 percent.

History suggests that when Elon decides to do achieve something he doesn’t usually fail, so we will be following his latest venture with much interest!. We have long maintained that distributed energy storage (or S2G as we call it here at V2G) is a vital component of any future smart grid, and if Mr. Musk can drive down the cost of such storage that is very good news. Apart from that though, and according to Bloomberg once again:

Shifting to greater use of wind and solar power will bring “some amount of strife for the existing utilities, especially for those invested more heavily in fossil fuels,” Musk, who is also chairman of solar-power company SolarCity Corp., said yesterday at a California Public Utilities Commission event in San Francisco.

Along with cheaper batteries to drive down the cost of Tesla’s Model S electric sedan, now priced from $71,000, the company is designing stationary battery packs “that last long, are super safe and are compact,” Musk said.

“We do want to make sure we have battery production capacity at a compelling price to offer a large-scale use of stationary storage,” Musk said. “Hopefully, we’ll have that plant up and running in about three years.”

The company has said it’s exploring locations in Texas, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico for the 10 million-square-foot battery facility that would be key to expanding Tesla’s production from 35,000 cars a year to 500,000 or more.

Mr. Musk’s cousin and CEO of SolarCity Lyndon Rive added that:

There is no doubt storage will become cost effective and deliver electricity with storage at night. Utilities in California, which are taking months to connect residential solar panels to their systems, are delaying change because they profit from the current system. When you have a game-changing technology, those in the game don’t want to change. They like the existing game, the sole source, cost-plus model.

Personally I can’t help but wonder what the rules of “the future game” will be, and who will write them?

Honda Joins Delaware Vehicle to Grid Project

Earlier this year we reported that the University of Delaware were running a pilot project in which a fleet of BMW Minis were actually earning money by providing a useful service to PJM Interconnection‘s electricity grid over the pond in North America.

Now comes news that Honda are taking part in the self same project. According to their press release:

Honda has joined a demonstration project for experimental vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology aimed at providing a potentially valuable energy storage resource to the nation’s electrical grid while providing for more cost-effective ownership of plug-in electric vehicles.

The Honda technology builds off of the research conducted by the University of Delaware and now supported by NRG Energy, Inc.  NRG and the University of Delaware, through their eV2g joint venture, came online early in 2013 with the world’s first revenue-generating vehicle-to-grid project, demonstrating the controls, regulatory requirements, and market participation rules for selling energy storage from vehicles into the PJM Interconnection Regulation Market. Honda is supplying an Accord Plug-In Hybrid with added V2G capabilities to the University’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus to jointly investigate the potential of this technology to benefit the electrical grid, vehicle owners and society.

There were of course also a number of quotes from senior managers of the companies involved. Steven Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda Motor Co., Inc said that:

This technology has the potential to support both a cleaner and more efficient power grid and a more positive ownership experience for EV customers. With V2G technology, a network of PEVs becomes essentially a distributed energy storage system. It makes for an even stronger value equation for plug-in vehicles, with benefits for both the community and the vehicle user.

Willett Kempton, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and Research Director of the University of Delaware’s Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration said that:

The participation of global automakers like Honda will help demonstrate and refine the technology. The University of Delaware has been developing the technology so that vehicle batteries can be used not only for mobility but also for grid services.  It is a big step toward a future with widespread availability of the technology to have Honda join our demonstration with their V2G-capable car.

Finally Denise Wilson, NRG Executive Vice President and President, New Businesses said that:

As the U.S. adds more intermittent resources to the grid, finding a lower cost energy storage technology that also benefits electric vehicle drivers is a great opportunity. We see this demonstration by Honda as an important step in the development of vehicle to grid technology.

Much the same sort of sentiments apply here in the UK as we too “add more intermittent resources to the grid”. However I could not help but notice that once again nobody mentioned international standards!

Electric Land Rover Defender Starts Work at the Eden Project

Land Rover have recently announced that:

The first Electric Defender started worked work at the Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall this summer in an inaugural real world trial of its capabilities. Unveiled at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the Land Rover Electric Defender is a pioneering research project into the electrification of an all-terrain vehicle.

The project forms part of Land Rover’s overall sustainability objectives which have included the move to aluminium platforms in the latest all-new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport as well as the forthcoming Range Rover hybrid products. The innovative 4×4 is a rolling laboratory to develop new ideas, and investigate electrification in a real-world environment. A fleet of six vehicles will be placed with organisations where their performance can be assessed.

Here’s what both the Electric Defender and The Eden Project look like:

An Electric Land Rover Defender poses for a picture at the Eden Project

An Electric Land Rover Defender poses for a picture at the Eden Project

The press release also reported the opinions of senior managers involved in the project. Jeremy Greenwood, Principal Engineer on the Electric Defender project, said that:

The car has been modified so it now includes a second battery. That will allow it to work a full day at the Eden Project, but also improves weight distribution and stability. In addition, we’ve linked the land-train’s air brakes to the foot pedal of the Land Rover, enhancing safety.

Gus Grand, Climate Change Lead for the Eden Project, said:

We’re very pleased to be working with Land Rover on this exciting project. It will be a great talking point for our visitors and proves that electric vehicles can be every bit as tough and rugged as their fossil fuel counterparts, while being much quieter, cheaper to run and with zero emissions at the point of use.

Here’s a video of an Electric Defender in action, driven by Robert Llewellyn of “Fully Charged” fame. Feel free to ignore the Ecotricity advert at the end if you so wish:

I wonder if Jaguar Land Rover have any plans for retro-fitting V2H and/or V2G technology to an Electric Defender in their R&D pipeline?

Fort Carson Microgrid Adds Bidirectional Chargers

Burns & McDonnell say they are “a full-service engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting solutions firm” and they have announced that:

A team of Burns & McDonnell engineers, along with subcontractor Coritech Services, has developed a system of bidirectional, fast-charging stations for a fleet of plug-in electric vehicles at Fort Carson, Colorado. This first-of-its-kind system will push power back to the base microgrid when needed to meet installation demand or improve overall power quality.

On Aug. 29, the team successfully commissioned five bidirectional chargers and the aggregating control system as part of the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) microgrid project at Fort Carson. Commissioning was performed using both Boulder Electric Vehicle and Smith Electric trucks, which are being provided for use on SPIDERS under separate agreements with the U.S. Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

Commissioning of the vehicle charging stations represents an important milestone of the Fort Carson SPIDERS project, which is nearing completion. The project is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Omaha District, and includes technical guidance from CERL and TARDEC.

The bidirectional charging units are capable of providing up to 300 kilowatts (kW) of power to plug-in electric vehicles and also can discharge a like amount of stored energy from the vehicle batteries to the grid or microgrid via Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard J1772-compliant bidirectional charging cables. The vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging includes power factor correction, which is a growing concern at locations such as Fort Carson that are experiencing a growth in on-site solar power generation, resulting in utility rate penalties.

Here’s what a Smith Electric Vehicle looks like, both inside and out: