The Department of Defense has been experimenting with microgrids that can suck the energy out of electric vehicle batteries whenever some extra juice is needed. The aim is to help provide military facilities with energy independence in case of massive grid disruptions. If EV battery microgrid technology proves itself in military use, it could easily ripple out into the civilian world, and it could have a huge impact on the ability of communities to recover after extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy.
When Climate Change Meets Home Health Care
When Hurricane Sandy struck the New York metro area, the aftermath revealed that two seemingly disconnected trends are on a collision course.
On the one hand, you have climate change leading to more extreme storms, with consequent disruptions in electricity supply and fuel transportation.
On the other hand, you have an explosion in health care technology that is enabling more people with life-threatening conditions to live at home or in small residential facilities. That includes robotic devices that can help the elderly or persons with disabilities to live independently.
So, what are all these folks going to do when the power goes out? Petroleum-fueled backup generators are the conventional solution, but as Hurricane Sandy revealed, liquid fuel supplies can be disrupted for many days after an extreme storm.
Backup generators also add a strong element of risk from carbon monoxide poisoning as well as creating noise and odor issues.
The EV Battery Microgrid Solution
Back in 2010, we noticed that an EV battery microgrid for the U.S. Marine Corps was getting a workout at the Twenty-Nine Palms base in California, with plans for another at Wheeler Air Base in Hawaii.
More recently, our sister site Gas2 noted a military smart microgrid project called SPIDERS, covering additional bases in Hawaii and Colorado.
Los Angeles Air Force Base has also become the first federal facility of any kind to replace an entire fleet of vehicles with new EVs, which could lead to smart microgrid integration.
An EV Battery Microgrid in Every Pot
The general concept is that electric vehicles, with their powerful high-tech batteries, can serve as mobile energy storage devices.
Aside from being used in emergencies, EV battery storage could also be used to help smooth out spikes in energy demand, enabling a facility (or a home) to rely more on intermittent sources like wind and solar.
Meanwhile, car manufacturers are already transitioning EV battery microgrids into civilian use.
The icing on the cake would be to charge up those EV batteries using alternative energy, and those clever folks at the Pentagon have already thought of that. Last spring, the Army got its first solar-powered microgrid installed at TARDEC, the Army’s advanced vehicle research center in Michigan.
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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+.