IBM (NYSE: IBM) is trying to figure out how to match the ebb and flow of intermittent wind power to the needs of charging electric vehicle batteries in Denmark – needs that could grow if the country's biggest utility and Better Place get their way.
That's the first goal of a research project underway on Bornholm, a Danish island with 40,000 residents and a lot of wind power. IBM has joined up with Danish utility and wind powerhouse Dong Energy, Siemens, and others as part of the Edison consortium. The group wants to work out how Denmark can match its biggest renewable energy resource – the country gets about one-fifth of its power from wind – to electric vehicle charging.
In simple terms, "When the wind is blowing, you charge, and when the wind stops, you stop the charge cycle," said Allan Schurr, vice president of strategy and development for IBM's energy and utility business.
Of course, there aren't that many electric vehicles out there yet, so IBM will start out with simulations, Schurr said.
But if Dong Energy and Better Place move forward with their $103 million plan to bring a network of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup's electric vehicle battery swapping stations to Denmark by 2011, there may be more vehicles on Bornholm soon, he said.
IBM does have other electric vehicle charging projects in the works, Schurr added, though he didn't give particulars.
"A lot of the smart grid projects have in them a component of enablement of smart charging," he said. IBM has smart grid pilot projects with utilities including Texas' CenterPoint, Ohio-based American Electric Power and Michigan utility Consumers Energy as well as a research partnership with French utility EDF (see IBM Snags Another Smart Grid Deal and IBM, EDF to Research Smart Grid Tech).
IBM will not be alone in researching plug-in vehicle charging. A number of projects are looking at the challenge of integrating them into the electricity grid, since doing nothing could require the United States to build the equivalent of 160 new power plants to handle plug-in vehicles by 2020, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
The Electric Power Research Institute is working with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. on projects (see Prepping for Plug-Ins to Hit the Grid), and Gridpoint tested vehicle charging with Duke Energy in March (see Laying the Grid Groundwork for Plug-In Hybrids).
And the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars Consortium – a consortium including the University of Delaware, electric vehicle system maker AC Propulsion, utility Pepco, regional transmission organization PJM and demand response company Comverge – is conducting a small-scale test of electric car charging in the city of Newark, Delaware (see A V2G Test: Pool Electric Cars for Grid Needs).