A new vehicle-to-grid infrastructure project in America aims to bring cleaner air to schoolchildren while providing added stability for the grid
Vehicle-to-grid infrastructure, also known as V2G, can transform electric vehicles into energy storage assets for utilities, helping them balance the national grid at times of peak demand. Adoption of the technology has so far been slow, however a new $16-million V2G project being rolled out in the United States this year by Dominion Energy could prove its commercial viability.
The utility company plans to connect 50 battery-powered school buses in 16 different districts in the state of Virginia with V2G infrastructure. By 2025 they hope to scale to 1,500 vehicles.
The objective of the project is to use the electric buses as a grid resource, where Dominion Energy can store and draw energy from when needed, while also achieving cleaner air for schoolchildren and reduced operating costs for local governments.
Exploring operating models
Before embarking on the project, Dominion Energy’s innovation team analysed the use patterns of some of Virginia’s 13,000 school buses. They quickly realised the vehicles were a good fit for the V2G concept because of their predictable usage, down to hours or even minutes.
This project is unique because the environmental benefits are tied to the localities we serve and will go directly to our customers’ kids
“The unique profile of electric school buses, where they park, the hours they operate and the miles they run, means much of the electric battery capacity isn’t needed much of the time, creating a great opportunity for shared battery use,” says Mark Webb, senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Dominion Energy.
According to Webb, the V2G system will operate as follows. At the end of the school day, buses will be returned to their depots and plugged into V2G chargers. Once connected, via a digital platform, Dominion Energy can charge the batteries, which takes around three-and-a-half hours, at the most optimal time, which means the company doesn’t need to build additional capacity to the grid to support extra demand. When the energy is needed, which almost exclusively will be in the summer when the buses are idle, a signal can be sent to take power into the grid.
Dominion Energy has investigated specific depots where the buses may be parked and what benefit the batteries could bring to the nearby energy distribution network, as well as what upgrades are needed to adapt local systems.