Published on February 4th, 2019 | by Kyle Field
February 4th, 2019 by Kyle Field
Robert Llewelyn and the Fully Charged team went to ENGIE’s offices in Amsterdam to learn more about its vehicle-to-grid pilot and the work the ENGIE team is doing in the flexible energy storage space.
They met up with Jacco van der Burg, ENGIE Green Mobility’s general manager of smart mobility and e-mobility, to talk about a functioning vehicle-to-grid (V2G, or vehicle to building as ENGIE talks about it) system that allows for plug-in vehicles using the CHAdeMO charging standard to not only charge, but to feed energy back into the grid.
At this ENGIE office location, the building is powered by a floating solar system that is actually connected straight into the vehicle charger which allows the system to use a single inverter. Most solar systems use their own inverter to convert the DC power they generate to the AC power most buildings use. Vehicle chargers require a similar inverter and building a vehicle-to-grid system that allows for a solar system to be tied in means one inverter, less cost, and greater efficiencies for the entire system.
The system allows the building to charge the vehicle, but the new functionality allows the building to also pull power from the car, if needed. The flexible nature of the system lets vehicle owners put their vehicles to use as stationary storage for building or for the grid, with the potential to actually generate revenue for owners while their vehicles sit idle (which they do about 95% of the time).
The behavior of the system can be managed with an app that shows the state of charge of the vehicle, the functionality of the system and its performance over time.
What’s exciting about this system is that it was designed to utilize functionality that was built into the CHAdeMO protocol from the get-go, so any vehicle with a CHAdeMO port like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the Nissan LEAF can use the system today with no extra equipment or modifications required. These chargers are still too expensive for residential use, but as with any technology, the next generation will be more affordable and a little smaller, according to Jacco.
ENGIE sees V2G as a way for the company to add value to vehicles for owners while also establishing itself as a provider of flexibility. Jacco said that they asked themselves, “How can we be the biggest flex provider without owning any batteries?” Ultimately, EVs will have the storage capacity that the world needs, so why buy more perfectly good batteries just to bolt them into a single, stationary place? Vehicle-to-grid offers a solution to that challenge and unlocks incremental value from resources that are otherwise untouchable to the grid.
Vehicle-to-grid also unlocks new potential for businesses looking to improve the financials for their fleets. “If you work with electric vehicles, you can do two things: you can optimize your fleet; you can decarbonize your fleet but also, on the other hand, if you do systems like [vehicle-to-grid], you can do additive storage which accelerates your energy transition,” Jacco said. That’s a one-two punch that packs immense value for companies looking to optimize fleet financials in the years to come and ENGIE wants to be the company they go to for solutions.
Second-Life Lead Acid Batteries
ENGIE is also working on a pilot to determine what value exists with second life batteries and is playing with an unexpected battery chemistry in a new pilot: lead-acid batteries. ENGIE found that spent lead-acid batteries are not only very cheap, but that they still hold quite a bit of storage value when they are discarded with 80% of their storage capacity remaining.
Energy storage is a crucial part of the transition to low carbon energy sources and ENGIE realized that by bundling lead-acid batteries together, low cost energy storage for buildings was not only possible, but that it was extremely cost effective as well. These blocks of batteries can’t do high-power balancing of the grid, but they are more than capable of storing backup power for a building.
The pilot project is running in another of ENGIE’s office buildings in Amsterdam and packs 60kWh of storage in 3 bricks of lead-acid batteries. They’re not as space efficient or low maintenance as lithium-ion batteries, but they offer several years of storage at prices that simply can’t be beat with new lithium-ion batteries.
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