Editor's note: Follow Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on LinkedIn, where this article first appeared. LinkedIn members can read, like, share and comment on Good's post.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning truck is one of the industry’s most in-demand electric vehicles (EVs). It combines an array of features that appeal to both truck and electric vehicle enthusiasts. But as the operator of the largest electric grid in the country, it’s the truck’s impressive battery capacity that intrigues me the most.
The battery enables the F-150 Lightning to become a mobile generator, providing power at campsites, at worksites and even – for short periods – to homes.
As companies like mine deploy increasing amounts of renewables through our clean energy transition, we will need tremendous amounts of battery storage to ensure energy is available when our customers need it – especially since a significant amount of our energy consumption happens at times when solar and wind are generating less energy.
EVs such as the F-150 Lightning can help us do this.
EV batteries are incredible energy storage sources. What if we could use those batteries to store excess generation from renewable resources during low demand periods and feed energy back to the grid during periods of high demand? We could more reliably deliver the clean energy our customers want, precisely when they need it.
That’s exactly what we’ve set out to test with our new collaboration with Ford Motor Company.
How would it work?
Meeting customer demand for electricity is a delicate balancing act that requires precisely matching the energy being consumed with the energy being generated at every moment of the day. But this is hard to do with generating sources such as solar and wind, which is why battery storage is so important.
Energy usage is high in the morning as people get ready for work and school, and it remains relatively low and steady during the day before ramping up again in the evening as people return home. Managing that dynamic power flow is the secret to delivering reliable power to customers. And that task will only grow more challenging as millions of electric vehicles begin charging across our system in the years ahead.
But what if we could harness the power of EVs themselves to help reliably serve customers when demand for electricity is highest?
That’s the idea behind vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies – a concept that takes EVs, consumers of electricity, and makes them suppliers as well. They could store excess energy and feed that power back to the grid during the periods of highest energy demand. Think of it as a network of batteries that function like a virtual power plant when we need electricity most.
To test this concept, we plan to launch new pilot programs with Ford Motor Company in the Carolinas and Florida. In the Carolinas, the program will involve customers in certain parts of our service area who lease an eligible EV, including Ford F-150 Lightning trucks. In exchange for a financial incentive from Duke Energy in the form of a reduction to their monthly lease payment, participating customers will allow their EVs to feed energy back to the grid during peak demand.
Further, the technology test in Florida will help us better understand the future opportunities for EV batteries by analyzing full functionality of V2G and bidirectional (two-way) energy flow on the grid – studying battery performance, interaction with other distributed energy resources, and the impact on the trucks’ batteries over time.
Operating at the grid edge
With V2G, battery storage is deployed at the “edge” of the power grid, closer to customers, rather than at power plants or along transmission lines. The concept of smart home technologies serving as both energy consumers and suppliers could also one day help balance the grid right at the grid edge.
But implementing V2G capability at a large scale doesn’t come easily. It requires grid upgrades to support two-way power flows and advanced technologies to manage potentially millions of energy entry points across the system. And it will require new programs to engage customers to participate in a smarter, more dynamic energy system.
We’re excited to test new, groundbreaking concepts like V2G as we modernize and transform. This is just one of a number of creative, innovative ideas that, if they bear fruit, will enable us to add more renewables without building more peaker plants to balance the grid. Ideas like this make the grid more than just a supplier of electricity – it propels our clean energy future and can serve as a catalyst for innovative offerings for our customers.