Dr Bjorn Sturmberg with an ActewAGL EV. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos, courtesy of The Canberra Times.
Batteries on wheels
Sarah Wilson reports on the bold initiative using electric vehicles to power our energy grids.
If just one-in-five Australian vehicles were electric, they would store more energy than the planned Snowy 2.0.
To make sure we have low or zero carbon emissions, we need to electrify as much as possible as quickly as possible.
This may seem like a herculean task. The good news is we don’t need to double the size of our electricity network in order to get there. In fact, the keys to solving the problem are, in some cases, literally in our hands.
A key driver of a low or zero carbon society could be vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology – which injects power from electric vehicles’ (EV) car batteries into the electricity grid.
Car batteries are big; they typically store about as much energy as an average household uses over two-to-four days. With the rise in EV sales, car batteries represent huge opportunities to support the grid.
Dr Bjorn Sturmberg, from the ANU Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, is in the driving seat of this much-needed electricity revolution. He is leading research on the Realising Electric Vehicles-to-grid Services, or ‘REVS’ project.
The project, the largest demonstration of V2G services in Australia, will see 51 EVs injecting power into the grid across the ACT, almost instantaneously, if, or when needed. The EVs will also act to prevent blackouts. EV owners will be paid for providing this service.
“What initially attracted me to this project was the scale and opportunity of V2G. If just one-in-five Australian vehicles were electric, they would store more energy than the planned Snowy 2.0,” Dr Sturmberg says.
“Another really interesting part of V2G is the fact that this fledging industry is not burdened with social, political or industry/stakeholder baggage.
“Take for example solar on roof tops. It is a tale of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – those who can afford to install solar on their homes versus those who can’t and there is baggage attached to this.
“V2G is unmoulded putty; it hasn’t been pigeon-holed or shoehorned. Both the electricity sector and the transport sector are still figuring out how they are going to deal with it.”
Laura Jones, a senior analyst working on the REVS project with the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, is examining the various ways we can use V2G.
“There is a whole bunch of ways we can use this technology. But I guess I am interested in creating a product that people want to use, or the business part of why you might do something,” she says.
“It’s been fun speaking to people about EVs. I say the word ‘EV’ and see what people say and how they say it. “Some people value social equity, making the world a better place, while other people take a more commercial or technical approach.”
Supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, as part of its Advancing Renewables Program, the REVS consortium consists of the ACT Government, ActewAGL, Evoenergy, Nissan, Sgfleet, JET Charge and ANU.