Published on November 19th, 2013 | by Susanna Schick3
Smart Grid Panel Discussion — Smart Meters, EMFs, Vehicle-To-Grid Fun, & More
The Sustainable Business Council and UCLA Sustainability hosted a panel discussion on smart grids at UCLA last week. The event was sponsored by CODA, which makes excellent energy storage systems, like this one. Dr. Rajit Gadh, John Bryan, Percy Haralson, and David N. Patterson, P.E. answered questions from moderator Laura Berland-Shane and the audience. Surprisingly to many attendees, there were protesters out front and in the audience during this time. Their vehemence was so extreme as to discredit them, but it was interesting. In the past, we have listed 5 major barriers to community renewable energy — EMF’s are not listed among them, but EMF-phobics should be. Smart grid technology is new and developing, and clearly not adequately understood by most people.
Smart Grids, Smart Meters, & EMFs
Because it’s so helpful for customers who want to get some of their power from their roof, and some from the local natural gas reserve, a smart grid is absolutely crucial as we move toward more solar rooftops. The grid needs to know when it can send less power to households which are gushing power from their roofs back to the grid. Then the utility can divert that power to the areas where it’s more needed. Smart meters are critical for this. It all sounds great on paper, but research says it’s too soon to tell how dangerous exposure to a smart meter is. However, with all the cell phone usage over the past 20 years, one would think that would suffice as conclusive evidence that holding an EMF-emitting device next to your brain doesn’t harm the vast majority of the people who do so. So, one parked in the house by the thermostat shouldn’t be much worse.
For those of us who enjoy living on the edge and embrace our digital overlords, there’s Chai Energy, another brilliant LACI baby. Chai is essentially an app that can tell you when you left the stove on… as you’re walking out the door. I wish I could plug it into my electric motorcycle to be able to tell my building manager exactly how much it’s costing. Add that to the Mitsubishi power BOX and you’ve got an EV that gives back.
The panelists spoke of smart grids in general, but what I thought was really interesting was the research being performed by panelist Dr Gahd in the V2G (Vehicle to Grid) niche. Mitsubishi’s David Patterson explained that car batteries which have lost 20% of their capacity might not be desirable for the vehicle owner, but if replaced, they can be sold to a utility to use for the grid. He also spoke of how Mitsubishi sells (in Japan) an inverter which plugs right into your ChadeMo port so you can send electricity back to the grid from your iMiev (or any EV, really). The important research being carried out is determining how to optimize this for all parties involved. He explained that utilities could benefit from cars plugged in at daytime peak usage hours, as long as the draw on the battery is managed to enable the vehicle owner to still get where they need to go. My EV spends so much time parked (I walk to work) that I would love to be able to get some income from it through such a system.
The panelists mentioned the issue of battery longevity, which would decrease faster if used for V2G, as there would be more charges. Each time the battery is recharged, it heats up and expands, and that process shortens its life. This is why companies like California Lithium Battery are so focused on working graphene into the cells. Graphene helps to control the expansion, so the batteries can last longer. Their presentation at CleantechLA’s Global Showcase was very exciting.
Natural Gas Insights
You may recall having read in our exclusive interview with John Keller that natural gas is now where America gets over 50% of its energy. SoCal Gas’s Ron Goodman led the evening off with some remarks about natural gas, including how they can capture it from sources such algae. This presentation he gave at another event neatly summarizes a lot of the things he told us, including far-out futuristic ideas including carbon nanotubes. (Fun fact: California stores 133 billion cubic feet of natural gas in disused oil fields.) Listen to his talk via the link below, including how well he handles a question from the EMF-phobic.
And here’s Mitsubishi’s David Patterson telling me about the time Gas2 writer Nick Chambers showed off his “hyper-mile” skills in downtown LA, taking him on the ride of his life: