A Plug-in Pioneer In Boulder

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THE VINE NOVEMBER 12, 2008

A Plug-in Pioneer In Boulder

In
Boulder, Colorado, public utility company Xcel Energy recently teamed up with
University of Colorado Chancellor Bud Peterson to conduct the first commercial tests of a
vehicle-to-grid (V2G) plug-in hybrid automobile. The company donated a
converted Ford Escape hybrid to Peterson to help pioneer a key piece of the "SmartCityProject,"
a long-term strategy to replace the country's outdated power grid with a smart
grid
, described by Xcel as:

an
intelligent, auto-balancing, self-monitoring power grid that accepts any source
of fuel (coal, sun, wind) and transforms it into a consumer's end use (heat,
light, warm water) with minimal human intervention… It is a grid that has the
ability to sense when a part of its system is overloaded and reroute power to
reduce that overload and prevent a potential outage situation; a grid that
enables real-time communication between the consumer and utility allowing us to
optimize a consumer's energy usage based on environmental and/or price
preferences.

The V2G hybrid would play an important role in this smart network: During hours of off-peak household energy usage (the nighttime, especially), the cars would take advantage of excess capacity in the system (especially with wind power, which often blows hardest at night) by charging up their batteries. Then, during hours of peak electricity use, the cars would discharge some of their energy back to the grid, to help supplement traditional energy sources and power households. This is no small deal: According to
some studies, V2G technology could help reduce a city's dependence on central power
generation facilities up to 20 percent by 2050. Xcel hopes to add a total of 500 V2G automobiles over the coming years to
their startup project in the city. That is, of course, if they can convince an
overburdened and debt-ridden federal government to help fund the way.

--James Martin

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