California Schools Save $1 Million On Energy Storage-EV Charging Combo

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California’s firmly in the pole position for electric vehicle and energy storage integration, so it’s only natural the two technologies would eventually combine to save forward-thinking customers money, right?

This week, Green Charge Networks announced that five California school districts, colleges, and universities are installing GreenStation intelligent energy storage–electric vehicle charging systems on their campuses.

Schoolchildren board their new all-electric school bus

Over 1,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of lithium-ion battery energy storage capacity will be installed across the Mountain View–Los Altos and Oak Park Unified School Districts, Butte and Peralta Community Colleges, and Cal-State Fullerton to balance their electricity supply and save up to $1 million on utility demand charges over the life of their projects – with no upfront costs.

Preventing Demand Charges From Spiking Utility Bills

Schools, like many other workplaces where people spend several hours at a time, are becoming hubs for EV charging. After all, what better time to charge your EV’s battery than during the daytime hours teachers, staff, and students spend in the classroom?

Evatran demonstrates wireless EV charging system.

As more EVs hit the road looking for a public place to charge up, schools increasingly need to consider the cost of charging, especially in a time of tight budgets. EV charging costs can be particularly concerning for customers facing demand charges – additional electricity costs for peak usage added to bills on top of total power usage.

Demand charges exist at varying rates in all 50 states, usually apply to commercial and industrial customers, and are based on the highest 15-minute average power usage within a given month. This may seem like an unfair situation, but they’re designed to cover a utility’s cost of providing power during the highest periods of demand, usually during the middle of the day when schools are in use.

Energy Storage Can Smooth Out EV Charging Costs

Using power consistently over the course of each month is a good way to lower demand charges, but if several EVs are plugged into a school’s network at once, demand can spike just when power costs are highest, and create an unexpectedly large bill at the end of a month – by one estimate, demand charges can total 50% or more of the electric bills for schools and administrative buildings.

EV charging costs
EV charging price spikes graph via Green Charge Networks

But if energy storage is installed, the batteries can charge when power is cheapest and discharge to meet building and EV demand when power is most expensive – exactly what the schools are aiming for. Indeed, the Mountain View–Los Altos School District estimates its demand charges will drop $43,000 per school year by installing the combined storage-charging systems at just two high schools.

Much like third-party solar installers, Green Charge Networks pays to install and maintain the storage-charging systems at the five schools in exchange for a portion of the savings on school electricity bills.

Learning a Lesson On Energy Storage and EV Charging?

California’s grid and state regulators recently unveiled a roadmap for grid-connected energy storage, and Southern California Edison is rolling out a pilot program to test the benefits of intelligent EV workplace charging, all while cleantech researchers work to drive down the cost of EV charging infrastructure.

This shift toward EVs is apparent across California, home to not only America’s biggest EV fleet purchase, but also the most EV-friendly US school.

Those efforts are smart, especially considering California is leading an 8-state charge to put 3.3 million EVs on US roads. But who knows – in time, the biggest lesson on saving money while expanding energy storage and charging infrastructure might just come from California classrooms.

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