In a press release on August 16, Duke Energy announced it has added 5 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup trucks to its fleet in Florida and will use them to test vehicle-to-grid technology, commonly known as V2G, and vehicle-to-home systems, often referred to as V2H. F-150 Lightnings equipped with the optional Intelligent Backup Power option and a Ford Charge Station Pro bidirectional charger can power a typical home for up to 10 days. That’s great for homeowners but there’s more to the story.
The hot button topic in the utility industry these days is grid-scale energy storage. Not only can batteries store excess electricity from renewable energy sources, they can also help stabilize the grid by compensating for variations in voltage or frequency.
Tesla so far wants nothing to do with V2G, apparently for fear that the technology could adversely affect battery life. But Ford, General Motors, and other electric car manufacturers are pushing the envelope for V2H and V2G technologies, probably in the belief that using electric cars to replace backup generators will attract customers to their products. In states where net metering is permitted, V2G connections could also allow consumers to earn income in exchange for allowing the battery in their cars and trucks to be part of a virtual power plant or VPP.
Duke Energy says the growing number of electric vehicles could provide extensive value to customers and to the grid. It will launch a research and development pilot program in the Florida to test and evaluate the viability of the new Ford F-150 Lightning’s high capacity batteries as a grid edge resource that could help transform the energy system.
Intelligent Backup Power
Using the Ford Charge Station Pro and Intelligent Backup Power Home Integration System’s bidirectional charging infrastructure, Duke Energy will perform extensive testing using the vehicles to feed and draw energy from the power grid. Sunrun has been chosen as Ford’s partner to install the bidirectional charging equipment.
The pilot program will focus on real world use cases, such as how the Ford trucks interact with other customer-owned distributed energy resources like rooftop solar systems and and residential storage batteries. It will also focus on how well the trucks are able to supply electricity to customers’ homes during an outage, how the vehicles will be used to feed the grid during peak times of use, and how such usage might impact the trucks’ batteries over time.
“We’re continually testing clean energy innovations to gauge how they perform in complex real-life scenarios,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy’s senior vice president of pricing and customer solutions. “Like our customers, we’re excited about the prospects of these advancements and we’re working to evaluate them in controlled environments so we can find ways to maximize their value and benefits.
“The potential is enormous when it comes to emerging vehicle-to-grid technologies,” Huber added. “As a clean energy leader, we’re committed to helping shape the net-zero-carbon landscape. This includes working hands-on to validate new technologies that can benefit our customers and sustain the clean, smart and reliable grid of the future.”
Steven Croley, chief policy officer and general counsel for Ford Motor Company, added, “Ford’s electric vehicles are unlocking new possibilities in energy management for our customers, becoming valuable energy storage sources that are changing the game on the benefits an EV can deliver. Alongside Duke Energy and our mutual customers, we’re working to fine tune and expand these capabilities that will not only power their lives, but also accelerate the development of a less carbon-intensive grid.”
We are probably years away from the time when integrating electric cars into the grid architecture becomes common practice, but V2G technology could provide a massive boost to the renewable energy revolution. Imagine if utility company’s didn’t have to invest millions to install grid scale batteries but could rent most of the storage capacity they need from EV owners.
Those who are familiar with Florida will recall it was just a few years ago that the utility companies — including Duke Energy — spent huge amounts of money to promote a scheme to amend the Florida constitution in a way that would virtually ban rooftop solar in the state. Now Duke Energy is buying F-150 Lighting electric trucks and using them to explore how well they interface with rooftop solar and home storage batteries.
If utility companies can shift their position on clean energy, almost anything seems possible, even completing the transition away from thermal generation and toward wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
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