Thursday, February 16, 2012

Toward a better future: Plug-In Hybrids & Smarter Grids

Guest blogger: Shawn P. Conroy

Energy prices continue the rise because people turn to increasing our capacity: as we build more power generation plants, we have to pay for this with higher energy prices. But do we really need to make new, large and costly coal, gas or nuclear power plants? At the same time, what about cutting gas emissions from cars? As the industry moves toward hybrid cars some have asked if instead of burning gasoline we will need to burn coal to fuel these cars. But the truth is that electric cars and plug in hybrid cars can really help our over all power grid. We don't need more power, we need smarter, efficient power.

Below is 10 minute video that explains how our power grid works, and how smart grids and plug-in and hybrid cars can help us more efficiently use the power we already have.

Basically, we can use the car batteries as batteries for our cities, charging when power demand is low, and feeding that power back in to the grid when power demand is high. This elegant solution is better than what we have now. You can choose to have your car suck power out of the grid when energy prices are cheap, like at night. Then, you can allow your car to feed that power back in to the grid when prices are high. You benefit. The power company benefits. Other consumer benefit. It's what the Office TV show would call a win-win-win. This could steady our power demand making peak times of the power grid more manageable. This isn't the only way of shifting power. In any case, power shifting is very important because it increases the efficiency of our power grid:
Grid energy storage (also called large-scale energy storage) refers to the methods used to store electricity on a large scale within an electrical power grid. Electrical energy is stored during times when production (from power plants) exceeds consumption and the stores are used at times when consumption exceeds production. In this way, electricity production need not be drastically scaled up and down to meet momentary consumption – instead, production is maintained at a more constant level. This has the advantage that fuel-based power plants (i.e. coal, oil, gas) can be more efficiently and easily operated at constant production levels.
(From Wikipedia's article on Grid energy storage.)
Power shifting allows us to more efficiently use the power plants we have now, and reduced the need for new power plants. This results in less expensive energy, cleaner air, and greater efficiency without sacrificing anything. It's simply a better way.

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