Indianapolis-based battery maker EnerDel is tied closely to the Th!nk electric car company and to other automakers moving into the EV and PHEV field such as Nissan. But it seems that the company is now expanding it's activities beyond automotive power units and into the area of the larger electrical infrastructure.
EnerDel has announced a new partnership with Smart Grid Leader and the U.S. Department of Energy to use EnerDel batteries in five separate one-megawatt power systems near Portland, Oregon that can supply energy to up to 400 homes for an hour during peak load times. The batteries will use the same Lithium Ion core chemistry that is used in EnerDel's smaller units "designed for the emerging new generation of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles."
The company is hoping to grab a piece of what will become an increasingly important technological specialty as electric vehicles take to the roads in large numbers, frequency regulation.
In general the utilities' goal is to keep supply in perfect concert with demand, maintaining the frequency of alternating current at as close to 60 cycles per second (in the U.S.) as possible. Too much power in the grid drives the frequency up, too little drives it down, and too much variation in either direction means wasted energy, damage to equipment and, in extreme cases, brownouts.
With today's grid technology, a slight rise in demand may require a huge fuel-powered generator to turn on briefly to cover the new load, then quickly turn off when the load drops. This is tremendously inefficient. As battery makers ramp up production for Hybrid, PHEV and EV manufacturing, it may be that these same batteries they'll be making, or at least the same chemistry and technology, can be brought into play to help regulate a new smarter power grid, capable of storing and releasing energy as needed rather than generating excess power to cover relatively small fluctuations.
With this project EnerDel is both testing a necessary new technology on the road to the smart-grid and getting a toe-hold in what is likely to be a huge emerging market for battery manufacturers.