Smart water heaters pair with wind power to manage the power grid
Smart water heaters will help manage the variable flow of power from wind power through the electrical grid.
Pilot projects with NB Power in Canada and the Bonneville Power Administration in the U.S. are showing that smart water heaters can help absorb excess power generate by wind and reduce demand for energy during peak use times.
Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, accounting for about 3 percent of US electric generation. About 53 million homes in the United States, or 42 percent of the total, use electric hot water heaters. Added up, they account for 13 percent to 17 percent of nationwide residential electricity use.
A tank-type water heater uses power for several hours a day to heat water in the tank, depending on the demands in the home. Water heaters equipped with remote controls allow the utility company to turn the water heater off and on depending on energy supplies.
NB Power is experimenting with 1,250 electricity customers to turn off their water heaters when energy use is high and the wind isn’t blowing. Then the water heaters are turned off when wind energy is available and overall demand is lower.
The energy management system allows the utility to link demand to when the wind is blowing to balance the energy load across the system. That allows it to reduce costs, burn less fossil fuel and reduce the need for more power plants.
BPA is running a similar pilot program with 100 homeowners in Washington State. The water heaters will act as power storage to manage the fluctuations of wind energy generation. The water heaters will be equipped with a device that allows them to communicate with the power grid and turn on and off according to grid conditions and the renewable energy that’s available. However, homeowners will be able to override the device at any time in case they need hot water.
The advantages of using water heaters as energy storage devices include:
- No need for expensive and toxic battery storage
- No need for fossil fuel burning power plants to fill in low wind energy gaps
- Water heaters provide distributed storage, avoiding point loads on grid
- Smart water heaters can be manufactured economically, for just a few dollars more.
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Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.www