Driving Clean Energy Forward

Article by Karen B. Roberts Photos by Evan Krape | Map by Jeff Chase 

New Delaware law paves the way for everyday citizens to provide power to the electric grid

The electric grid that keeps our home lights burning and our city streets from being in the shadows is about to have a new resource at its disposal — the vehicle parked in your driveway.

Delaware Governor John Carney recently signed a new law paving the way for everyday citizens with electric vehicles to connect and provide services to the broader grid.

Delaware is the first state in the nation to enact legislation of this nature.

The new law amends previous Delaware code to include updated safety standards for electric vehicles equipped with vehicle to grid technology (V2G) — invented at the University of the Delaware — to provide power from their batteries back to the electric grid.

“Delaware is leading the way with this new law, which allows owners of electric vehicles to safely provide power back to the grid,” said Governor Carney. “We should continue to invest in clean energy technology, which will help protect our environment and provide new economic opportunities for Delawareans and Delaware families.”

Driving clean energy forward

Grid services are the things that keep energy running to and from the electric grid reliably, without interruption. On any given day, at any given moment, resources that provide power to the electric grid are going on and off. The larger electric grid monitors this and takes measures to ensure a balanced power supply when resources go up or down … so that the lights stay on steady, and to keep things secure so there aren’t large-scale drops in power distribution.

Today, power plants provide this balancing service to match generation to demand. But V2G electric cars can provide this same service from thousands of driveways and parking lots — for less cost.

V2G technology makes it possible for electric vehicles to draw energy from, and discharge energy back to the power grid. The software technology aggregates all vehicles plugged into the system so that they perform in unison, helping to balance the grid’s supply of electricity with real-time demand.

According to V2G pioneer Willett Kempton, professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, models show that as more electric vehicles are incorporated online providing grid services, the grid can accommodate a larger share of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar. In the United States, the Department of Energy has set a goal of having 20 percent renewable energy by 2030. Some states already are setting much more ambitious targets.

“You need a technology that can come online fast, safely and in a balanced way to replace say, solar, if the sun didn’t shine this afternoon, or wind if it was a windless day. V2G can do that,” Kempton said.

Changing the rules of energy storage

As the U.S. and other countries incorporate higher amounts of clean power, ensuring a steady power supply becomes increasingly important. Current guidelines on who, or what, can contribute power to the grid are confusing and restrictive. This is because the rules are not set up for small-scale contributions. And, while recent rules allow small-scale solar, the idea of a roaming power plant (e.g. V2G-enabled vehicle) was not envisioned when the rules and codes for integrating other renewables, such as wind and solar power generation, were developed.

V2G technology is being used all over the world.

V2G technology is being used all over the world.

Sara Parkison, a UD doctoral student studying marine policy and energy policy under the advisement of Kempton, helped draft and shepherd the new V2G bill (SB 12) through the Delaware legislature with support from Kempton, Senator Harris McDowell, Representative Paul Baumbach and Senator Gary Simpson (now retired).

For Parkison, this has meant navigating the existing law, testifying in front of the Delaware legislature and exploring ways to make planning for the transmission grid more proactive, cost-efficient and beneficial to the states involved, both locally and across energy trading borders. It’s a complicated process because the rules are different in each utility, regional transmission operator and state.

“There is no one fix in the law for the entire United States where you can make this technology, deploy it and we’re good. It’s an incremental change that has to be addressed in both legislative and regulatory policies, on a state-by-state basis,” Parkison said. “But what SB 12 demonstrates is that these changes do not mean massive overhauls of the status quo. This amendment only needed 10 words to allow for the safe interconnection of grid-integrated electric vehicles. It now stands as an example for other states to follow.”

Another concern is making sure those grids are ready to take on incoming renewable energy integration. Parkison has spent considerable time talking with representatives from various utilities and agencies throughout the state about how V2G technology, which UD sold to Nuvve Corporation in 2017, can lighten the load on our energy transmission grids without financially burdening rate payers. Nuvve supported Parkison’s and Kempton’s efforts in advising the state of Delaware about this new law.

Meanwhile, fellow UD graduate student Imelda Foley has been working on PJM committees, sifting through complicated laws and rules to help suggest a better way for individuals to contribute. PJM is a regional grid provider that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in Delaware and other states. Both PJM and state rule changes are needed to connect V2G and to sell V2G services on energy markets.

Back in Evans Hall on UD’s Newark campus, UD doctoral student and researcher Rodney McGee spearheaded efforts to develop the new safety standard for the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) that defines how to ensure electric vehicles equipped with V2G technology meet proper safety standards.

Electrical infrastructure rules typically assume an energy device is at a particular location. Traditional renewable energy resources, such as solar panels, align with this model because they are attached to a structure and can be inspected to ensure they meet appropriate safety standards.

But a car is a mobile power plant.

“An EV is a resource that moves around and it’s at different places at different times and it plugs in behind different meters. You can’t have an electrical inspector go out to one location and say, ‘Okay, I tested this resource and I know it complies’ because later, a different electric vehicle can be in the driveway,” explained Kempton, who is also Nuvve’s chief technology officer. “That requires an extra level of safety protection above that for solar or wind.”

Under SAE standard J3072, which McGee developed with SAE colleagues and support from NRG Energy, the charging station becomes the gatekeeper to ensure each vehicle meets the proper local requirements.

Under the new SAE standard, when a car owner plugs in at a charging station, the V2G-enabled vehicle identifies itself as certified to be a smart car that is capable of safely providing services to the grid. The vehicle requests permission to connect from the charging station to be part of this aggregate resource that is providing services to the grid. The charging station verifies that the vehicle meets the required standards before allowing it to feed energy back to the grid. Older electrical standards do not provide this extra safety check.

Delmarva Power, an Exelon Company, has been closely following the development of the new SAE standard.

“Delmarva Power is pleased to see a new SAE standard approved, as it defines the important safety requirements that are essential to providing safe, affordable and reliable service for our customers,” said Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power region president. “We continue to see advanced technologies create the basis for new energy choices and services for our customers. Forward-looking policy like this is essential in helping us continue to support innovative technologies, deliver new services and meet our customers’ evolving energy needs.”

Globe to grid

UD launched the world’s first revenue-generating V2G project at the University’s main campus in  Newark, Delaware, in 2013. In another UD first, in February 2019, Parkison finalized the paperwork to have McGee’s home in Newark registered as part of this larger UD “power plant,” comprised of vehicles and batteries at UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus (STAR Campus) and charging stations across campus, that are aggregated to provide services to PJM.

According to McGee, once the registration was approved, preparing to “flip the switch” at his home required little more than installing the V2G charging station on the wall of hi

Above a picture of a charging station attached to the garage of a residential home.

Above a picture of a charging station attached to the garage of a residential home.

Now when the grid needs help balancing supply and demand for electricity resources, McGee’s home is among the UD resources available to take on a piece of the work. Each month, he can get a report of how much energy his home and car stored and supplied to the grid.  When cars with this capability are widely available, Nuvve will be able to set up the service for consumers.

While Delaware is the first in the world to allow private citizens to feed power back to the grid from their EVs at home, the UD team is hopeful the idea—and enabling legislation—will take off in other states and countries.

V2G technology already is already being piloted in California and other areas of the world, including in Denmark, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France and Japan.

Back in Newark, McGee continues to support V2G R&D work at UD through funding from Nuvve and from companies developing electric vehicles. In one project, he is developing an advanced AC-power charging cable that will enable commercial vehicles, such as school buses and delivery trucks — which spend a majority of their day parked — to provide V2G services to the grid.

This is where the charging port plugs into the car.

This is where the charging port plugs into the car.

While pricey DC-based cables found at some gas stations can provide quick on-the-go charging, the charging system that McGee is developing with Kempton and Fouad Kiamilev, professor in electrical computer engineering, leverages AC power instead. AC power requires much less expensive infrastructure and slightly more charge time, McGee said, making it an affordable — and profitable — solution for V2G-enabled vehicles that remain stationary for long periods of time and can be leveraged for grid services while they charge. Three of these advanced charging stations for medium and heavy-duty vehicles currently are being tested on UD’s Newark campus.

Thinking even bigger, McGee said he sees potential for V2G technology to electrify a whole section of the economy that currently depends on fossil fuels — the transportation of goods.

“Think about the California strawberries we buy at our local Delaware grocery store. The trucks transporting these goods across the country burn gas to keep vegetables and fruits cold during transit. With the proper standards and the proper power infrastructure, the same goods could be shipped in a more renewable way, in vehicles that become mobile power stations while parked,” McGee said.

Now that’s a big idea.