Electric vehicles and wind energy could be ‘perfect match’

» By | Published 25 Aug 2011

A new report has found that wind power in Alberta, the Canadian province facing global criticism for its highly-polluting oil sands fossil fuel projects, could be the perfect match for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).

Wind turbines create more power at night, when winds tend to be stronger in Alberta. Meanwhile most commuters do not drive at night so that is when they could charge their cars. If grid operators in Alberta could divert more wind energy for recharging electric cars at night then significant energy and emissions savings would result, the report noted.

Rising concerns about volatile oil prices and greenhouse gas emissions have strengthened the search for cleaner and more efficient energy resources, says the report, published earlier this month by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

“PHEVs are one promising solution — they use less gasoline and produce fewer emissions,” the report notes. “They also benefit electrical grids by providing regulation and spinning reserve, using their batteries as a distributed storage network accessible to system operators.”

Titled “Environmental Benefits of Using Wind Generation to Power Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, “ the report said PHEVs can, by helping the grid system, mitigate imbalances in electricity supplies arising from wind-based generation.

“As the share of wind generation increases in power systems, the need to match the system’s load to the intermittent nature of wind becomes more acute,” the report notes. “Through the controlled charging and discharging of PHEV batteries, grid operators can overcome this difficulty.”

Written by four academics, the report notes the energy required for charging PHEVs is calculated and compared to the expected growth in Alberta’s wind power capacity between 2008 and 2025, which could exceed 11 GW.

It also says that PHEVs are considered as a controllable storage system that can absorb the power generated by wind farms. As alternatives to conventional vehicles, the report adds, PHEVs running off electricity stored in batteries could decrease oil consumption and reduce carbon emissions.