Electric Vehicles and Homes Connect to Microgrids in the US and Africa

Nov. 5, 2018
UC San Diego explores vehicle-to-grid by connecting electric vehicles to its advanced microgrid…A university in Missouri and a utility in South Africa each create residential microgrids
UC San Diego connects electric vehicles to microgrid

The University of California San Diego continues to advance its already advanced microgrid universe of technologies, this time with electric vehicle-to-grid capabilities for its free nighttime shuttle service, Triton Rides.

The program is part of “INVENT,” a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) program that the university launched a year ago with Nuvve, a San Diego-based V2G integration company. The team received a grant from the California Energy Commission and worked with partners San Diego Gas & Electric, BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Hitachi.

Now the collaboration will add five electric vehicles to the Triton Rides program that will connect to the university’s microgrid. Power will be able to flow either way between the college’s microgrid and its electric vehicles.

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“Using Nuvve’s bi-directional EV charging stations, UC San Diego can leverage V2G technology to strategically manage the charging and discharging of the Triton Rides vehicles in order to create a more stable and efficient microgrid,” said Gregory Poilsane, co-founder and CEO of Nuvve.

Eventually, the V2G technology will allow the university to manage when and how electricity is drawn from electric vehicles plugged into its charging stations. The vehicles’ batteries will help power university buildings and facilities, a move expected to save both money and energy.

The demonstration project also plans to use the university’s solar forecasting technology in managing its electric vehicle charging schedule. The university intends to charge the vehicles with as much renewable energy as possible.

Residential microgrids in two parts of the world: US and Africa

Residential microgrids remain rare, but they are emerging in different places throughout the world.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology has installed lead batteries for residential microgrid systems within its EcoVillage.

The project serves as a test for members of Missouri S&T’s Microgrid Industrial Consortium — a group interested in lead battery use for residential microgrids. Students both designed and live in the homes, where batteries run off of charging algorithms from a 24-hour, cloud-based control system.

Mehdi Ferdowsi, director of Missouri S&T’s Microgrid Industrial Consortium and a professor of electrical engineering and computing, said in a university news release that the new microgrid systems will allow researchers to explore the application of advanced lead batteries in stationary grid-tied applications — a field dominated, so far, by lithium ion batteries.

“We’ll also be able to conduct research on potential peer-to-peer energy transactions that could result from this use — that is, the energy trading between consumers and ‘prosumers,’ those who both produce and consume the energy,” Ferdowsi said.

The Missouri S&T Microgrid Industrial Consortium is a collaborative research alliance that includes the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium, a research group and program of the International Lead Association; The Doe Run Co., a Missouri lead mining and battery recycling company; Ameren, Missouri’s largest energy utility provider; the Missouri Public Utility Alliance ; the Missouri Department of Economic Development Division of Energy; and Missouri S&T’s Center for Research in Energy and Environment.

Meanwhile, African utility Eskom has a residential microgrid project up and running at Wilhelmina Farm, Ficksburg in the Free State province. The microgrid serves 14 households with 81 family members.

Solar panels provide electricity to the homes. Three sets of lithium ion batteries store any excess solar power for discharge when there is no, or little, sunlight.

“The project symbolizes innovation, growth and development and is consistent with Eskom’s future strategic objectives as microgrids incorporating renewable and smart energy technologies will play an important role in the future Eskom as an integral part of the business,” said Nick Singh from Eskom’s Research, Testing and Development Center.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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