Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant is about to become the scene of a major experiment in car cannibalization. A new 500-kilowatt solar installation has just gone online, and the project includes a 50-kilowatt-hour facility demonstrating the potential for used electric vehicle batteries in energy storage. If the system proves viable, it will provide the basis for expanding solar power and installing used EV battery storage systems at other Ford plants.
Solar Energy Storage
Like wind power, solar is an intermittent energy source. In order to guarantee a steady, reliable supply, some kind of storage system is required. A nationally networked smart grid will also come into play, but storage is the name of the game. Large scale battery systems are one solution, along with a raft of other alternatives such as high tech flywheels and pumped hydropower. Energy from Ford’s new solar installation will be stored in an array of new batteries along with the used EV battery demo.
Using Old EV Batteries to Store Energy
EV batteries have a lot of life in them after they are no longer suitable for use in a vehicle. Back in 2003, Sandia National Laboratory studied the feasibility of re-using old EV batteries(pdf) for stationary energy storage and concluded that there are no “insurmountable technical barriers to the implementation of a second use scheme,” especially since there was already an established re-use market for forklift and laptop batteries, among others. The study’s authors also noted that a used battery solar energy storage system was up and running in Mexico.
The Rush is on for Re-Using EV Batteries
Duke Energy is another company experimenting with EV battery re-use, drawing data from a fleet of about 80 Think EV’s based in Indiana – a state that has become a powerful green jobs generator thanks to a statewide cooperative effort by business, government, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. That’s the kind of democratic, consensus-oriented planning that is needed to transition to a new energy future. Given the top-down trend in Michigan, it’s not clear that Ford’s plans for a solar-electric future in that state will continue to develop apace but hey, there’s always Indiana.
Image: Car battery by Andy Armstrong on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.