Folks and authorities in New Jersey are still cleaning up the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the serious power outages have led to a renewed interest in microgrid, battery backup technology. Just a few weeks after Sandy, General Motors and ABB showcased a microgrid backup system using five old Chevy Volt batteries.
Using car batteries as backup power systems for individual homes is not a new idea. The Nissan Leaf EV is testing a home battery backup system in the wake of the Japanese tsunami/earthquake that ravaged the nation last year. As envisioned though, GM and ABB’s microgrid backup system would be able to store up to 50 kWh of energy and would be paired with a neighborhood transformer.
The Volt T-cells are repurposed and air-cooled rather than liquid cooled, operating at just 5 kw of their 111 kw capacity. This allows for up to two hours of battery backup power at 25 kw per hour. The average home consumes about 29 kw a day in juice, though that number can fluctuate wildly. Suffice to say, having some power in an emergency situation is better than having no power, and it would give people a chance for last-minute preparations.
Can we blame Hurricane Sandy on climate change? Most scientists won’t say. But there is little doubting that “extreme” weather events are happening with increased frequency, and Hurricane Sandy managed to expose critical issues with America’s aging infrastructure. This could lead to the development of localized “microgrids”, like the SPIDERS system currently being deployed at Fort Carson in Colorado.
Repurposing used Chevy Volt batteries is another great use of old resources for new purposes. If events like Hurricane Sandy become the new normal, microgrids and battery backup systems will play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.