East Coast Storms Revive Interest in Smart Grids.

East Coast Storms Revive Interest in Smart GridsIt’s an ill wind that has a silver lining, to mangle idioms and metaphors rashly. America’s terrible recent East coast storms are forcing some to review the wisdom of suburban smart grids, having some localised solar power availability, and equally of interest, having an electric vehicle among the transportation mix, if only as a way of keeping the fridge running during electric power outages.

Could A Smart Grid Curb Blackouts?
Millions of people lost power after last week's storms. Could this have been prevented
Tue Jul 3, 2012 08:08 AM ET

Heat-driven storms pounded the East Coast last weekend with little warning and knocked out power to 3 million homes and businesses. Over a million are still in the dark.

Are we doomed to experience blackouts every time a big storm comes along or can technology find a way keep the lights from going out?

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Experts say new technology may help restore power more quickly, but that we are stuck with our line-and-pole distribution system for decades to come. In other words, we will still face power outages and so-called blackouts.

One solution is to make power locally produced. The idea is to combine small-scale power generation with bigger batteries inside the home as a way of weaning your house off the electric grid. That scenario could be a more reliable and quieter back-up system than a firing up a diesel generator when the lights go out, according to Bob Gohn, vice president of research for Boulder-based Pike Research.

—- Some communities are already experimenting with home-powered electric storage systems that combine solar panels, electrical vehicles and smart- metering technology to allow homeowners greater freedom from utility grids. Austin, Sacramento and Portland are all working on such pilot projects. Solar cells generate power, which is stored in EV, which is then used to power home appliances in case of emergency.

“You may not run your entire house,” Gohn said. “But you could keep your refrigerator going for a while."

The so-called "smart grid” has been touted as a way for utilities to take advantage of wireless technology and more advanced software systems to allow them to get a better handle on outages and to reroute power around problem areas.

Below, an update from Japan.

In case of emergency: power home with Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Posted Jun 6th 2011
In light of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan, Mitsubishi is releasing, a year ahead of schedule, a device which allows i-MiEV owners to power their electric appliances at home using their EV's battery should they find themselves without power. Mitsubishi claims that the 16 kilowatt-hour battery pack can supply power to an average Japanese home for almost one and a half days.

This is a great idea, because who doesn't want to have the ability to use your car to help cook or to keep electronic communication devices charged during an extended power outage. The device will provide a 100-volt AC outlet capable of up to 15 amps (1500 watts peak power), enough to run even a washing machine (although in an emergency situation, we doubt that people would think doing their laundry is an item of first priority). The device is expected to be on market by the end of the year.

Next up, a more sceptical pre-storms view from America.

Using Your Car to Power Your House?
Another node in the smart grid. But it won't come cheap.
Thursday, June 21, 2012

What if you could use your car’s battery to power your home? That’s the idea behind Nissan’s “Leaf to Home” technology. Nissan, in partnership with Nichicon Corporation, has built something called the “EV Power Station" (also featured in this month's magazine). It takes power from the “Leaf to Home” device and funnels it into your home. It can also halve the amount of time you spend on an average Leaf battery charge, from eight hours to four.

But wait, what? Why would you want your car to charge your house? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around–that you park your car and plug it in, so you can charge your battery and drive to work the next day?

The idea is clever, actually: it makes the car’s battery a node in your own personal mini-smart grid, sort of. And it could save you money. It’s all about giving customers “more power options,” the two companies said in a release (via Phys.org). Electricity prices vary by demand. Wouldn’t you like to store up energy during the low-cost periods, only to deploy it during the high-cost periods? If only you had… some sort of… giant battery you could use…

It will be interesting to see if these storms and the possibility of hurricane related outages, do have a silver lining for some. After all, it’s an ill wind the blows nobody any good.

Nissan says its new electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, can provide emergency power to your home during a power failure or brownout (shortage). The charging system that takes power from the wall outlet can, with modifications, run in the opposite direction and provide power back to your house. In Japan, Nissan says there’s enough power to run the average Japanese home for up to two days. In the United States with our higher demands for power, like the beer fridge in the garage, we calculate that you’d fully drain the battery within 20 hours.

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