As demand for electricity intensifies, new technologies are being developed to manage our needs. Here, Geraint Thomas explores the possibilities of smart grid technology, identifying new ways to deliver electricity to the traditional grid system while also managing the demand side.
A smart grid system uses digital technology to allow two-way communication between electricity suppliers and their users. As electrical demand changes, a network of sensing equipment is able to monitor the grid. Controls, automation and new technology can then respond to the changing needs. This removes centralisation and empowers consumers to generate and distribute their own electricity.
There is a growing need to become more efficient in the way that we manage energy. It is, for example, imperative to find smarter ways to store electricity from renewable sources. This is especially true when demand is low and large amounts of wind or solar power can be produced, leading to energy wastage. At peak times when demand is high, renewable energy may not be available. So even if total power output equals demand, how energy is stored remains a key problem to be solved.
To date, large storage technology is not yet affordable. But, there could be a solution on the horizon.
Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) could have a significant impact on smart grid and load demand. Vehicle to Grid (V2G) enables PEVs to be used as distributed energy storage devices. They work by feeding electricity stored in their batteries back into the grid. Micro grids and smart grids using PEVs can help to reduce electricity system costs, offering a cost effective means of providing grid frequency regulation.
Instead of relying on fossil fuels, customers can manage their own needs. They can achieve this by working with renewable energy suppliers, helping cut their bill and the demand on the grid.
With the growing need to become more efficient, V2G is likely to become a convenient way to store energy. It is an approach which can reduce CO2 emissions and save money for consumers. We can already see the positive effect of these benefits on EV purchases and V2G is likely to result in a surge in demand for electric vehicles.
In Norway, they plan to ban the use of fossil fuel-powered transport in 2025. Other EU countries are expected to follow suit. If this happens, then it will further support the argument for EVs usage within smart grids. Even though the current number of EVs in use is low, governments could look toward this new technology. This will eventually help to lower demand on the electrical grid.
For V2G to work there needs to be a large investment in infrastructure to make this a viable way of producing and storing electricity, from the battery within the EV, to charging points and how the energy can be used.
The conclusion to V2G is that steps should be made to realise the value to EV owners. As renewable energy power stations are being created, so is the need to store and deliver energy as and when it’s required.