The U.S. energy economy faces unprecedented pressure to integrate clean and renewable fuel sources like wind and solar, but after a distracting 2016 presidential campaign sidelined energy policy, troubling and untenable gaps in the president-elect’s strategy remain unchecked. In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, the lone flicker of interest in clean energy was promptly extinguished… Continue reading
Viewing the electric vehicles tag archive
At the second presidential candidate debate, one red-sweater-wearing American earned notoriety for his question about little-discussed energy policy. The question deserved a thorough response, given that it brushes on some myths of the clean energy transition but also the challenge of guaranteeing justice for displaced workers. Midwesterner Ken Bone asked this question: What steps will… Continue reading
What would it take to power the entire U.S. economy on renewable resources alone? Three big things: Only build wind, solar, or hydro power plants after 2020 Reduce energy use compared to business as usual by 40% Electrify everything It’s the last that may be the most complicated, since it means a complete overhaul of… Continue reading
I just came across an interesting interview that radio host Diane Rehm did with Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution. The excerpts below lay out his vision for an energy future that is decentralized and democratized. (He also notes that this vision has just emerged in the past two to four years, but we’ve been around since 1974…).
The book is organized around five pillars of the third industrial revolution:
Pillar one, renewable energy. Pillar two, your buildings become your own power plants. Pillar three, you have to store it with hydrogen. And then Pillar four…the internet communication revolution completely merges with new distributing energies to create a nervous system…Pillar five is electric plug-in transport…
when distributed Internet communication starts to organize distributed energies, we have a very powerful third industrial revolution that could change everything…
You can find some renewable energy in every square inch of the world. So how do we collect them? … If renewable energies are found in every square inch of the world in some frequency or proportion, why would we only collect them in a few central points? …
[it] jump starts the European economy, that’s the idea. Millions and millions and millions of jobs. Thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises have to convert 190 million buildings to power plants over the next 40 years…
That’s the vision: a decentralized energy system can be democratized with local ownership, spreading the production of energy and the economic benefits as widely as the renewable energy resource itself.
Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote an excellent essay on the value of electric vehicles (a rebuttal to the idea that Americans hate EVs), but this paragraph could stand alone as the “reason to buy an electric car.”
3) Screw you, electric cars are fun to drive.
Look, I know this is purely subjective. But “not fun,” Johnson? Seriously? Have you gotten a chance to floor the accelerator on a Nissan Leaf on a stretch of empty one-way street? Because I have. And it’s hella fun. Electric motors don’t shift gears the way internal combustion engines do. Which means, when you accelerate, you just keep accelerating, without the slow-down that accompanies each shift up. Which means you’re slammed back in your seat like you’re riding a motherf***ing rocket ship to the moon. Only it’s silent. How is that not awesome? If I buy an electric car, I am going to get sooooo many speeding tickets**. I think that’s pretty much the all-American definition of a fun car.
The U.S. Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if 1 in 8 of the region’s cars used batteries.
That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system.
The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest. With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, the grid could support an additional 10 gigawatts of wind power. With electricity demand from those seven states of about 250 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, the additional 10 gigawatts of wind would provide 12 percent of the annual electricity demand (roughly 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year).
The results are no doubt applicable to other regions of the country. In fact, at least 33 states have enough wind power to meet 10 percent or more of their electricity needs and if the same portion of vehicles (13%) were electrified in those 33 states, it would allow them to add a collective 100 gigawatts of wind power, meeting nearly 14% of their electricity needs.
In the long-run, a fully electrified vehicle fleet would theoretically – just do the math! – provide enough balancing power for a 100% renewable electricity system. And since the large majority of those vehicle trips would be made on batteries alone, it would be a significant dent in American reliance on foreign oil for transportation.
Further reading: learn a bit more about electric vehicles helping wind power in Denmark, too.
Hat tip to Midwest Energy News for the original story.
The batteries and the solar cells themselves are something like shock absorbers for the grid. If drivers want to charge up their cars during peak periods on the grid, the charging station’s batteries will meet part of that demand so that the impact on the grid is milder. Likewise, the solar cells will chip in with some energy, lessening the load on the grid.
“If with new technologies we can control these resources on the distribution side, we can eliminate the need for potentially very expensive upgrades to the distribution system,” said James A. Ellis, the senior manager for transportation and infrastructure at the T.V.A.’s Technology Innovation Organization.
The blog Camino Energy has a very detailed analysis of the payback on an electric vehicle (Nissan Leaf) compared to a conventional Toyota Camry. The author looks specifically at Northern California, where off-peak electricity prices are low enough that utilities could offer electric vehicle (EV) charging at 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). At that rate, with solely night-time charging of the EV and driving 12,000 miles a year, a Nissan Leaf pays back in 5 years.
The author provides a sensitivity analysis against higher electricity prices, and his entire post is worth reading.
One of the keys to maximizing renewable energy production (decentralized or otherwise) is providing electricity storage to smooth out variabilities in wind and solar power production. Electric vehicles have a lot of promise, as the cars could provide roving storage and dispatchable power to help match supply and demand.
So could a large number of EVs actually help with the huge variations in wind that can occur? According to Claus Ekman, a researcher at the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Frederiksborgvej, Denmark, it can, to an extent. Ekman recently published a paper in the journal Renewable Energy that modeled how well EVs could handle increasing wind power generation. He found that in a scenario involving 500,000 vehicles and 8 gigawatts of wind power, various strategies would reduce the excess, or lost, wind power by as much as 800 megawatts — enough to power more than 200,000 homes. Ekman calls this a “significant but not dramatic” effect on the grid. Scenarios involving 2.5 million vehicles and even more wind power show an even greater impact.
The U.S. currently has around 35 gigawatts of wind power, so it would take 2.1 million EVs to provide a similar effect in the U.S. (reducing the lost wind capacity by 10 percent of total installed capacity).