This is the second post of our renewable energy and EV charging series
Sources of clean and renewable energy are increasingly being integrated by utilities around the world. Renewables provide a less expensive and eco-friendly energy source as a means to handle the growing pressure on the grid caused by multiple factors including extreme temperature fluctuations driving up demand for more electric heating and cooling. Utilities are also allocating green energy to eMobility service providers to charge electric vehicles, further contributing to reducing the impact of hydrocarbon-based energy sources on the world.
What is Renewable Energy?
Basically, renewable energy, also known as clean energy or green energy, never runs out. It comes from natural sources that continuously regenerate, such as sunlight, wind, water (in motion), and geothermal.
Renewable energy was the main source of energy before the discovery of oil, coal, and natural gas. With the increasing threat of climate change, renewable energy has slowly but surely regained is prominence. In 2019, around 11% of global primary energy came from renewable technologies. In the United States, for example, renewable energy now accounts for more than one-eighth of U.S. power generation.
Renewables Using the Earth’s Water & Heat
Hydroelectric and geothermal have been integrated within the power generation infrastructure for decades and have increased their contribution to the existing power supply thanks to technological advancements. Seventeen percent of the world’s power is generated by hydroelectric, and 8.3 percent is delivered by geothermal.
Major hydroelectric sites include the Hoover Dam in the United States and the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China. Renewable hydroelectric covers smaller, fast-moving bodies of water where the water flows through the generator’s turbine blades without disturbing the neighboring environment. Iceland, Norway, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and Austria were the global leaders in hydroelectric as of 2019.
Geothermal energy comes from volcanos, hot springs, and geysers, and it is generally sited along major tectonic plate boundaries, which limits broader usage – although new technologies are being developed that generate energy using the differences between ground and air temperature. The tectonic-plate-related power is generated most in Iceland, El Salvador, New Zealand, Kenya, and the Philippines.
Renewables Depending on the Weather
Solar and wind are the easiest to locate, scale, and convert to energy. Solar power ranges from single solar panels on individual roofs to large distributed solar “farms.” For solar, individual photovoltaic cells transform sunlight directly into electricity. Leaders in solar power generation are China, United States, India, Mexico, and Japan.
Wind turbines can be placed anywhere, on land and in the sea, generally on floating platforms. The Vineyard Wind project, which will be able to power almost half a million homes in New England, is undergoing final U.S. federal approval, which is highly likely under President Biden’s push for clean energy.
Unfortunately, solar and wind energy aren’t always available due to fluctuating weather conditions – however, advances in battery technologies are making it easier to store them for “a rainy day.”
Renewables & EV Charging
Ultimately, charging electric vehicles with renewable energy creates a “one-two punch” against climate change. The increasing focus on EVs has been driven by the desire to reduce the significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by internal combustion engine-powered vehicles using fossil fuels. By using renewables for EV charging, GHGs are further reduced by lowering the need to generate power from non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
eMobility service providers have long embraced the transition to green energy. San Diego Gas & Electric has been offering solar powered charging stations since 2012. In 2020, EVgo contracted that all its power supplies be renewable. ElaadNL is working directly with Driivz to designate which chargers receive green energy only, enabled by algorithms which process data from power generated by solar and wind resources during weekends or after regular office hours.
As the number of chargers in one location increases e.g., fleet depots, MDUs, office buildings, etc., it is necessary to optimize energy distribution to cope with the limitations of the existing grid. In some cases, battery storage and/or renewables need to be integrated at the microgrid level. These renewables can supply power directly to the charge points, with excess energy stored in onsite batteries. Those batteries can then be used to supply power to the charge points on cloudy days or during the evening or on days when the wind has shifted elsewhere.
Efficient use and management of green energy is critical to fully benefit. Using a smart EV charging and energy management solution that intelligently manages the energy chain to integrate batteries and renewables and participates in energy demand response maximizes the impact of green energy.
Green energy is much less expensive than traditional energy sources as well. Beyond the initial investment in collection infrastructure – solar arrays, wind and water turbines – there are no additional costs – unlike continuously having to drill for petroleum or mine coal.
It’s completely cliché – but the best things in life are free and energy from sunlight, wind, water, and the earth itself really are the “gifts that keep on giving.” Using their power – again and again – will give us a greener world – and reduce the costs of keeping electric vehicles running.