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Power Grids in a Changing World – The Future

– Eric Surprenant

While my two previous blog posts made our current situation seem very dim, there are power grid solutions available to light the path for the future. These solutions are already commercially available and may soon be deployed in your very office.

One such solution? Large-scale energy storage systems, coupled with a renewable energy source. For instance, by installing battery banks and solar panel arrays at charging stations, large industrial sites, power stations, and even your home, the load on the grid is reduced and decentralized, exponentially increasing its robustness and capacity.

These systems work in a relatively easy to understand manner. During the day, when the sun is out, solar panels produce energy. Depending on the configuration of the system, this energy is used partially to power the facility (business, home, charging station, etc.) where it is installed, while the remainder of the energy is used to charge the battery bank. Whatever load isn’t covered by the solar panel is covered by the power grid, greatly reducing the draw during operation. If the solar installment is large enough, it may be able to produce enough energy to both fully power the facility and charge the battery bank at the same time, with no assistance from grid power. At night, when the sun goes down, the solar panels stop producing energy. The facility then switches over to battery power and draws most of its load from the battery bank. If the battery cannot provide enough energy for the facility, supplemental power can be taken from the energy grid at a greatly reduced rate, as electricity is typically cheaper at night during off-peak hours.

This method accomplishes a few things. First, it reduces the draw on the power grid, as now most of the power being drawn by a facility comes from an on-site or nearby renewable source. Second, in the event of a grid blackout, the battery bank and solar array should be enough to power whatever facility it is attached to until the grid comes back online (or in extreme cases, provide enough energy to perform a shutdown if the blackout is predicted to be numerous days or weeks long). Finally, if a solar array is efficient enough to fully charge the battery before nighttime, the excess energy produced can automatically be sold back to the power grid to be distributed elsewhere through a system known as B2G (building to grid) distribution, thus further reducing the cost of energy at installation.

In a similar fashion to B2G distribution, there is currently development happening to bring this technology to EVs. This V2G technology would allow fully-charged vehicles to sell power back to the grid, as long as they are connected to a charge point. This helps distribute the load and reduce energy costs for both the charge point operator and vehicle owner, effectively recruiting EVs as mobile batteries.

These systems of battery and renewable combinations (also called microgrids) are where I come in! Indium Corporation is exploring options to integrate itself into an ever-changing environment in a green and sustainable way. The project I am currently working on has the potential to influence how our facilities become prepared for a newer, greener world. As a business, Indium Corporation draws a lot of power, 24 hours a day. Developing microgrids at our manufacturing facilities would both reduce our environmental impact and help us to prepare for an emergency. Additionally, reducing our draw on the grid would enable us to increase our employees’ the quality of life by being able to provide services such as free EV charging while they are at work. By researching these types of solutions, I hope to leave my mark on Indium Corporation and lead the way to a greener future.

Thanks for reading this series!