The Smart Grid is often described as bi-directional energy and information flows, enabled by a convergence of information technologies (IT) with operational technologies (OT). That’s all true, but the word convergence is getting frayed from overuse, and for the latest trend, it’s not quite the right word. That word is meld, and it is an apt term to describe the combination of Smart Grid technologies. Two stories the past week highlighted how energy storage technologies are melding with renewable energy generation technologies and building technologies. It also signals the future direction of grid modernization.
The first announcement features Solar City and Tesla, where cousins Elon Musk and Lyndon Rive (there’s a fair amount of entrepreneurial DNA in that family) recently announced plans to offer Tesla’s batteries with Solar City’s panels to commercial business customers. This is a batteries-as-a-service innovation, which addresses one of today’s primary concerns about energy storage – upfront costs. It’s a great idea. This business model has proven its popularity to avoid upfront costs of computer, software, and data centers through various as-a-service models. Renewable generation and energy storage naturally meld together, and it’s heartening to see innovative business models leveraging this combination.
The other interesting technology meld was announced by Nissan. They have a unique V2B or Vehicle to Building solution that plugs up to 6 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (EVs) into a building’s power distribution board to perform smart charging and discharging. The objective is to help the building reduce it’s draw of electricity at peak price periods. V2B is different from V2G (Vehicle to Grid). V2B doesn’t send the electricity drawn from EVs to the grid – it is used within the building. The building benefits by taking less electricity from the grid, and thereby lowers its bills. This type of scenario could be used for pure economic justifications, or also play into demand response (DR) strategies. A combination of power from EVs plus shifts of cooling or heating can give a building additional negawatts to bid in various DR situations. What will this type of charge/discharge cycling will do to the EV batteries? These pilot deployments will help answer that question. However, the melding of EVs to building structures – residential and commercial – will happen for economic and resilency reasons.