Securing Power Grids and Countering Summer Heat

Shelli Zargary
October 12, 2023

Securing Power Grids and Countering Summer Heat with Solutions that Keep EVs Driving

As the world faces rising temperatures and climate-related challenges, power grids are under increasing strain. Industries like EV infrastructure are turning to supplementary energy resources to ensure reliable access to power, mitigate power dips associated with renewable energy sources, and to overcome extreme weather conditions.

With a spike in temperatures and climate hazards worldwide, we now face a troubling new reality where power grids are under continued strain. Against a backdrop of increased renewable energy usage such as wind and solar power, many industries, including EV charging infrastructure, are looking for supplemental energy sources to address intermittent supply, provide on-demand power when other sources fail due to the impact of extreme temperatures and serve as a critical extra layer of protection and energy resilience in the face of summer shortfalls.

Vulnerability of Power Grids in the Global Climate Crisis

The global climate crisis has rendered energy systems increasingly vulnerable, particularly in the face of scorching summers where severe weather events, wildfires, and record temperatures have come to be the norm. In the United States, a record 15 separate weather disasters have caused at least $1bn in damages so far this year. According to NASA’s global temperature analysis, June 2023 was the hottest June on record.

Energy and grid resilience have attracted considerable attention, with electricity demand and supply being directly influenced by temperature and climate disruptions. In June 2023, the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) concluded in its Summer Reliability Assessment that two-thirds of North America was at risk of energy shortfalls. With climate models forewarning of a future characterized by worsening extreme weather events, investing in energy resilience and backup power systems is a top priority for government, communities and industry.

In a report released by NERC in  August 2023, “Resilience to Extreme Factors” is listed as one of the primary risk factors in the future stability of America’s Bulk Power System, (BPS) wherein extreme heat and drought can drive higher-than-anticipated demand, potentially overloading and causing failures in BPS equipment, while also degrading resource availability.

Despite ominous predictions earlier this year, energy experts suggest that an increase in renewable energy sources may have softened the blow. This turn towards renewable sources is reflected in the data. At the end of 2022, the entire U.S. grid had more than 1.1 million megawatts of total utility-scale electricity generation capacity and about 39,486 MW—or nearly 0.04 billion kW—of small-scale solar photovoltaic electricity-generation capacity. Renewables comprised some 29 percent of total capacity. Overall, at the beginning of August 2023, the U.S. had about 237,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar, wind, and battery storage online, up 12 percent from the same time last year. Of that, 10,000 megawatts were added in the first half of 2023.

In June and July 2023, Texas and other Southern states experienced an unprecedented heat dome phenomenon that resulted in consecutive days of record-breaking temperatures. The grid’s relative stability in Texas and elsewhere despite initial projections has been a surprise outcome with no simple explanation. Some experts point to increased investment in diversifying the energy mix and increased reliance on supplementary solutions. In Texas, for example, a combination of solar, wind, and battery storage resources was adopted to deliver dependable power generation during extreme heat. Similarly, in Europe major increase in solar power generation in southern Europe played a leading role in averting energy shortages during the heatwaves of recent weeks when temperatures broke records and drove unprecedented demand for air conditioning.

Ensuring Grid Stability in the Era of Intermittent Renewable Energy

However, renewable energy is also a potential source of instability for the power grid, which must be balanced by storage and backup power. Despite the relative stability of the summer in places like Texas, the grid is still said to be operating at the “outer limits of its capability” and the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like solar and wind means that grids need to be adapted to provide electricity on demand. This entails enhancing grid infrastructure by integrating storage systems that provide ongoing reliability and weather resilience.  Research shows that intermittent sources act rigidly and when there is a high penetration of these resources to the grid, the flexibility of the power system is reduced, which can cause energy quality and stability issues that require supplemental solutions.

In these circumstances, industries such as utilities, homeland security, healthcare, and the EV charging industry are recognizing the importance of combining solar, wind, and other clean energy sources with additional sources of supplementary energy to provide reliable ongoing power to their customers, especially during the Summer. These options not only reduce pollution but also enhance the resilience of energy systems. For example, the healthcare industry in the U.S. is making changes following recent adaptations in CMS government agency regulations which stipulate that they are no longer required to power their backup generators with fossil fuels, opening the door to a new era of clean-energy microgrids at hospitals.

Healthcare industry leaders point to renewable microgrids, solar systems, and batteries as a winning combination with the potential to reduce carbon emissions and increase resiliency. During storms or hurricanes, healthcare facilities will be able to disconnect from a failing power grid and become an “island” that generates its own electricity. Traditionally, this energy comes from diesel-powered generators; however, recent weather events have demonstrated that these diesel stores are not only pollutant, but can easily run out. Hospitals are exploring among other options supplementary and backup power solutions incorporating hydrogen fuel cells to ensure reliable power for 24/7 hospital operations, including life-saving medical equipment as well as EV charging facilities for patients and staff.

Diverse Technologies for Supplementary Backup Power

Companies like GenCell are addressing the increase in demand for resilient power generation and storage by offering hybrid systems integrating hydrogen fuel cells with storage devices that address dips in grid power and mitigate the disruptions caused by heatwaves and extreme temperatures. GenCell provides a supplementary source of electricity providing resilience and serving both as a vital “insurance policy” that supplies instant power on-demand as well as backup power for both the EVs and related facilities during sustained outages that last several hours or even several days.

As electric cars become more prolific, the need for power within the EV industry is growing, especially during hotter periods when energy demand is high, placing greater stress on the grid and limiting the availability of power to EV charging stations. GenCell offers the GenCell EVOX™ to ensure that even during the hottest days, EV owners can charge their vehicles without interruptions and so that companies can provide their EV charging clientele with reliable continuous service. Further, the supplementary power generated can also provide critical backup for the many power needs of the stations, including lights, refrigerators, cash registers, and other on-site amenities.

The Future of Energy: Renewable Sources and Storage

Going forward, as the impact of climate only intensifies, the diversification of energy sources and the addition of resilient, reliable and sustainable generation sources to complement energy storage solutions and balance intermittent renewables will become increasingly important. Hybrid power generation and storage solutions incorporating fuel cells bring an added layer of stability to the grid during peak demand and during grid failures associated with extreme weather. Pairing renewable sources with these solutions, especially during hot summer temperatures, can keep EV charging stations operational to ensure that emergency and other critical electric vehicles stay in service, both supplementing the grid during times of instability as well as offering backup power to the chargers and other power loads at the station during outages of any duration.






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