The world is changing in many exciting ways. Although it’s a scary time to be alive, transitioning to green energy has the potential to ring in a clean new age for humanity where people can profit while living in harmony with the planet. How do electric vehicles (EV) and smart grid integration tie into the bigger picture?
Scores of moving parts must come together to solve the climate crisis. From reducing meat consumption to sorting waste properly, there are little things anyone can do, and they matter. However, corporations and governments play crucial roles in fixing the pollution created by how people live and work today.
Smart grid technologies and electric vehicles marry the consumer, corporate and governmental sectors to reduce emissions and stop rising global temperatures. Here’s how it all works together to support renewable energy.
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What Is Smart Grid Integration, Anyway?
As the world changes, old hierarchies fall as people realize that bottom-up solutions matter equally with handed-down edicts from above. Smart grid integration gives consumers more flexibility, security and freedom while keeping them connected.
How? Traditional power plants distributed energy from centralized locations. However, generating clean energy takes room — solar and wind farms take far more acreage than oil rigs. The solution? Spread it out, with individual businesses and consumers providing much of the necessary infrastructure.
Examples of Smart Grid Integration
A simple example of smart grid integration you can see in action today is the hybrid solar systems some people have in their homes. While old power systems deliver juice in one direction, these new models go both ways. When consumers — or businesses with solar panels — generate more electricity than they can use, they sell the excess back to the grid.
The idea of smart grid integration is taking advantage of existing resources, like retail and corporate buildings, homes and parking lots, to provide the necessary space for widescale green energy generation. Such technologies offer other benefits, too. For example, consider solar parking lots:
- They provide shade, keeping cars cooler, encouraging shoppers to linger in stores.
- They can serve as charging stations for electric vehicles, another huge piece of solving the climate puzzle.
- They don’t require disturbing existing habitats or paving anything that isn’t already paved.
Such facilities fill a pressing need, as the United States recently entered the club of countries to hit 5% of EV sales, with 36.9% of companies looking to switch to electric fleets, half of which have already placed their orders.
With the right infrastructure improvements, such centers could even provide safe shelter for urban car dwellers who trade the security of permanent housing for the adventure of life on the road. Although this lifestyle is fraught with danger today, it can become a more viable alternative with innovations like lot security, check-in procedures, bathrooms and waste-sorting receptacles.
How Do Electric Vehicles and Smart Grid Integration Intertwine?
The above example gives you some idea of how smart grid integration and electric vehicles intertwine. After all, for electric cars to function, they need a charge, which requires plenty of power stations. One factor inhibiting people from switching is the fear of running out of juice and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Smart grid integration will make such a possibility even less likely than running out of gas is today. If you notice you’re getting low, pull into the nearest parking lot to recharge. As more facilities like corporate buildings utilize technologies such as solar windows, it generates additional energy for building charging stations on lots that aren’t covered.
Electric Vehicles and the Future of Renewable Energy
Smart grid integration and electric vehicles can do more than protect people from climate change while letting them enjoy modern conveniences. They can also increase their feelings of security. That matters. Anxiety is at epidemic levels. One poll found that 67% of Americans are somewhat or extremely anxious about climate change — their nervous systems need a break.
The traditional fossil fuel grid is vulnerable to attack because of its centralized location. Furthermore, since the power flows one way, outages affect thousands of people, leaving them in the dark and cold. Today’s hybrid systems have embedded technology to separate from the grid to avoid sending power back over damaged wires. It also allows consumers to add batteries so that their system functions for off-grid power for their homes in emergencies.
You can see the advantages of this situation when combining electric cars with smart grid integration. While individual consumers might lose power, more maintain a steady supply, letting them carry on business as usual. In contrast, a city-wide power outage could restrict activity as much or more than the recent pandemic.
What Are the Barriers to Smart Grid Integration?
The existing barriers to smart grid integration hinge on the available technology and the cost of implementing it. On the technology side, much of it is projection — will green energy generate enough juice? Much remains unknown, but there is also considerable cause for hope.
For example, one 2015 study found that adding solar to California’s developed areas could power the state three to five times over. This projection seemed valid, as in 2017, the state generated such a surplus that it gave power away to other states. Technology has advanced even more since then, with higher-capacity panels and advances in storage and charging technologies.
The Cost of Switching to Solar
However, much of the delay hinges on costs. For example, it takes a much bigger investment to fund a solar panel-covered parking lot than to add them to rooftops because of the need to provide the supportive structure.
Fortunately, solutions such as allowing private entities to profit from electricity sales will encourage more businesses to take this step. However, it still requires leadership willing to green-light the initial expense. Corporations can also recoup the money spent by charging a fee for customers who recharge their vehicles using the infrastructure.
Here’s where governments must do more. Already, some take advantage of existing solar credits to do the right thing, but others simply can’t afford the upfront costs. However, smart grid integration is a national security matter on several levels, protecting the public from climate change and grid attacks. Therefore, it’s a wise investment of tax revenue to lead the way with incentives for people and businesses and projects like the Carl T. Hayden Veteran’s Center in Phoenix.
However, that doesn’t mean individuals can’t get involved. Concerned citizens have already formed solar coops in some areas to help residents who want to switch do so. Such programs offer discounted group rates to collectives of neighbors, letting them all switch for less.
Smart Grid Integration and EV Use: Renewable Energy for a Cleaner World
Smart grid integration and electric vehicles offer multiple benefits. The first of which is a cleaner, more habitable planet, the most essential thing for human life. However, it also increases security and independence while keeping society connected.
The future looks bright when smart grid integration and EVs combine to power a cleaner world with renewable energy. When governments, corporations and individuals make the right choices today, tomorrow will be a better place for all.
About the Author
Jack Shaw is the senior writer for Modded, a men’s lifestyle publication. An avid outdoorsman and lover of nature, he’ll often find himself taking retreats out to explore his environment and encourages others to do the same. His writings have been featured on sites such as Duluth Pack, Tiny Buddha and more.