A new study shows home water heaters can help integrate wind energy into the region’s power system. The newly released study by Ecofys energy consultants demonstrates that residential electric water heaters and furnaces, refrigerated warehouses, and commercial heating and cooling loads can help the power grid accommodate variable wind energy.
The project funded by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Northwest Power and Conservation Council tapped flexibility in some customer loads to provide energy storage, at a far lower cost than competing storage technologies such as batteries. Energy storage is used to absorb energy when the wind suddenly increases, and release energy when the wind suddenly subsides. BPA is pursuing new cost-effective alternatives for integrating wind and other renewable energy into the Northwest electric grid.
“The project showed that loads have the potential to supply services that are currently provided to BPA by the region’s hydropower system,” explains Lee Hall, program manager, BPA’s Smart Grid.
“Water heaters can act as battery storage for the power grid,” says Gary Huhta, manager, Cowlitz County Public Utility District Power Resources, one of the project participants.
The demonstration project involved more than one megawatt of consumer demand across seven utilities’ territories, roughly equivalent to 150 electric car chargers. Ecofys project manager Diane Broad says, “We were able to both increase and decrease demand levels as needed by the grid and simultaneously increase customer satisfaction. We look forward to taking the next steps to commercialize this technology.”
Results of this demand response project are expected to provide important cost and operational experience to BPA and other participating regional utilities in moving forward with the development of a smart end-use energy resource. BPA and Ecofys are beginning a new demonstration project to investigate the ability of data centers to provide similar services.