EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.
Find more information on this featured innovation here.
America’s electricity grid was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. But it is showing its age.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that if just nine of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations were knocked out, the entire country could plunge into a months-long blackout. Power outages caused by severe weather events already cost the U.S. between $25 to $70 billion a year. And Americans are using more energy than ever – 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than in 2012, which is greater than the total energy consumed by Maine, Montana, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined.
Fortunately, we know how to protect ourselves from this vulnerability: move away from a highly-centralized energy generation and transmission system to one that looks more like the Internet, with decentralized energy production and smart technologies that allow us to use power most efficiently.
That’s exactly what Green Charge Networks (GCN) is doing. Over the past few years, this Silicon Valley smart grid company has been building an intelligent energy storage system called GreenStation™ that reduces stress on the electric grid, reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and, the company says, offers customers a five-year return on investment.
“Many of our customers have seen reductions in demand charges by 50% or more,” said Vic Shao, CEO of Green Charge Networks. “With utilities increasing demand charges in order to pay for an aging grid, many of our customers were at a loss on how to control exploding electricity bills. We have been able to help customers both large and small take control over their power use.”
GreenStation™ combines hardware and software to reduce demand charges caused by peak electricity use. The heart of the GreenStation™ technology is its stochastic algorithm that learns the behavior of the building electricity load over time and enables commercial and industrial customers to drastically reduce their energy costs. The system combines historical site energy use patterns with real-time weather patterns to establish optimal energy use portfolios. In doing so, the system is able to react to and predict second-by-second changes to electricity load profiles, store energy from the grid when demand (and charges) are low, and discharge the stored energy when demand (and charges) are high.
In other words, GreenStation™ technology makes your building smart about its power use.
The result is a flattened power load curve (shown in the image below) that helps the customer, the utility, and the electric grid. The company states that the typical system pays for itself in less than five years. When coupled with solar photovoltaic (PV) or electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, the payback period could be as short as one to two years.
Green Charge Networks was awarded more than $14 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission to support research, development, and multiple field trials of the GreenStation™. Since its first installation more than 2 years ago, GCN has improved the performance of their system nearly threefold, publishing 20 patents along the way with 16 more patents pending.
Rebuilding the grid to be cleaner, smarter, and more reliable will require a mixture of new technology and traditional energy expertise. Green Charge Networks is a great example of how new ideas and cutting edge technology innovation can make a real and tangible impact for the grid and for customers.
For more information on Green Charge Networks, check out this video.