How NRG is testing the next step of energy storage: Vehicle-to-grid integration
Car batteries usually aren’t designed to be used as stationary storage, but a new partnership hopes to change that
The electric vehicle battery is going to school to learn how to give back.
NRG EVgo has formed a partnership with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to use the school’s large microgrid as a “testing ground,” in the words of Scott Fisher, director of alternative energy at NRG EVgo, for taking the next step in bidirectional EV batteries.
There has been a lot of talk of EVs serving as storage devices that could help utilities shift loads or shave peaks. In practice, that is not so easy to achieve. Among other issues, tapping into an EV battery as a grid storage device can shorten the life of a battery or void the warrantee. Manufacturers did not test and design EV batteries as grid-connected devices.
But the technical issues reside not so much in the chemistry of the battery but in the systems or software that controls how the battery is used. NRG, like several other companies, has been working on that aspect of the problem.
In 2013, EVgo and the University of Delaware, working with the PJM Interconnection, brought online the world’s first project where electric vehicles served as an official resource on a grid.
The two-way software developed at the University of Delaware was spun off by Professor Willett Kempton and is licensed in Europe by a company called Nuvve. In the U.S., EVGo is the licensee through a collaboration called eV2g.
It is that technology that EVGo is testing in San Diego. The test site is UCSD’s microgrid, one of the largest and most advanced in the world. It serves more than 45,000 people and generates more than 85% of the electricity used on campus via a combination of solar power, a fuel cell, a cogeneration plant and energy storage.
The UCSD microgrid, as state-owned property, also is not subject to local ordinances and permitting requirements, and because it is not a utility, it is not subject to California Public Utilities Commission regulations. The campus also has its own fire marshal and safety inspectors. In other words, it is a perfect testing ground.