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Supply and Demand

Les Poch and Matt Mahalik of Argonne’s Center for Energy, Environmental, and Economic Systems Analysis (CEEESA) are concerned with the demand on the existing power grid as more and more electric vehicles hit the road. Poch and Mahalik model the generation capacity needs and the potential strain on the transmission grid if millions of new PHEVs and EVs were to plug in every night.

Electricity suppliers closely monitor regional demand. To prevent shortages, they must predict how much electricity will be needed at any given time.

Vehicle charging stations, like Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint, will enable communication between the vehicle, consumer and electric utility companies. Argonne engineers are active in validating these technologies.

Electric vehicles stand poised to throw off the now stable pattern. No one knows how quickly electric cars will catch on, in what areas they’ll be most popular, or when everyone will choose to plug in their cars.

Today’s electricity demand follows well-defined cycles. Demand increases during the daytime when commuters head to work, as homes and offices turn up the air conditioning and factories power up the machinery, and falls sharply during nighttime.

A team of Argonne materials scientists, chemists and engineers—already renowned for their successes in the field of advanced battery development for vehicles—is working to develop large-scale energy storage technologies that will capture energy whenever it’s available and store it for use at a later time.

“Depending on what Americans do with their new cars, electricity suppliers could be overwhelmed—or they could stand to gain a lot,” Poch said.

By using incentives to smooth out demand for electricity between day and night, a utility can produce power more economically. Also, smart charging of electric and hybrid vehicles during the off-peak periods can significantly help with that goal by filling up “demand valleys.”

For more information, contact Ted Bohn 630.252.6592 tbohn@anl.gov

Grid Energy Storage

A significant stumbling block for power distribution is the lack of technology to store power for extended periods. Stored energy from variable resources, such as solar and wind, could be fed back into the grid at peak times to reduce the strain on the grid and conventional power plants.

Vladimir Koritarov koritarov@anl.gov



Summer 2010


“The way we build power plants now is to make sure we have enough to meet the highest demand possible—the maximum amount of power on the afternoon of the hottest day of the year,” said Vladimir Koritarov, deputy director of CEEESA. “Then they add some more for backup in an emergency. The rest of the year we won’t need nearly so much power, but we have to be prepared for that one day.”

“The smart grid isn’t a theoretical concept,” said Bohn. “It’s happening now.”

Across the country, aspects of the smart grid are being tested in homes and neighborhoods. As America moves forward, science and Argonne work to improve the future—for households, businesses and utilities alike.

For this reason, utilities must maintain a large reserve capacity that is unused for the majority of the year. Koritarov thinks that with the right approach, the smart grid could work out to everyone’s advantage.

Funding for this research effort was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Program under Fred Joseck and Vehicle Technologies Program under Patrick Davis.

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