Microgrids may be a hot topic among those forecasting key future trends shaping the world’s energy infrastructure, but few significant state-of-the-art commercial microgrids are actually up and running in North America, the world’s leading market for microgrids. One
Electric vehicles (EVs) are widely considered an inevitable part of the future of transportation. Every major auto manufacturer is working on their own electric model, with notables like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and an electric Ford Focus scheduled for release within the next year or two.
Ben Franklin’s saying, “Out of adversity comes opportunity” seems to characterize the energy sector in US Northeast. Electricity rates are among the nation’s highest. Population density leaves scant room for new power plants and transmission lines. And the region has little indigenous generation fuel.
So what’s the good news?
While the title of this article may be a little premature, if you ask any auto company about their most exciting models coming out in the next few years, you would be hard pressed to find any auto maker without a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle hitting the market in the next few years. And as fellow CleanTechies blogger Levent Bas suggested in August last year, “the future of electric vehicles may be here sooner than we think.”
With expected release dates in 2010, the plug-in Nissan Leaf, plug-in Toyota Prius and many other models will offer a green/clean-tech alternative from their gas-powered competition. Recent estimates place the number of models available by 2014 at over 70. Not all these vehicles will make their way to the US market and some wonder if the market will be ready but in other circles there are different concerns about the electrification of the transportation industry. Will the electric grid be ready for the additional load?
The Obama administration is awarding $3.4 billion in grants to modernize the national electric grid. One-hundred companies, utilities, manufacturers, and cities will receive the grants — ranging from $400,000 to $200 million — for projects that help build a “smart” grid that cuts energy costs, reduces blackouts, and has the capacity to deliver more wind and solar energy to American homes and businesses. Calling the nation’s grid system “dilapidated,” Carol Browner, the Obama administration’s top adviser on climate and energy issues, said federal funds would be used to expand the national grid and make it work more efficiently.
The U.S. Department of Energy has granted a $43 million loan to a Massachusetts-based company to prove the value of a new technology in which spinning flywheels are used to improve the efficiency of the electric grid. Beacon Power Corp. will build a 20-megawatt flywheel plant in upstate New York in which flywheels spinning up to 16,000 times per minute will act as a sort of short-term power storage system for the state’s electrical distribution system, according to the Associated Press.