Engineering students from Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science are learning firsthand how smart grid technology can affect energy usage on a daily basis. Students from the school partnered with Con Edison of New York (ConEd) and two other research partners to use smart grid technology and analytics to determine how to best manage and track power flow to electric vehicles (EV) in charging stations.
ConEd estimates there are approximately 3,000 EVs in New York City and surrounding areas -- an area where the utility serves approximately 3 million customers. ConEd partnered with the school, FedEx Express and General Electric to show how Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) smart grid technology can help affect power flow to the charging stations to help reduce a customer's peak energy usage and overall bill.
"The number of electric vehicles on the road is growing, and that's good for our customers and good for the environment," said John Shipman with ConEd. "The technology in this project helps a fleet owner get the power its customers need while saving money on electricity. In today's competitive business world, companies that can reduce their energy costs have an edge."
The research project was conducted at a FedEx Express location in Lower Manhattan, where 10 electric delivery vans are housed. The facility houses an 80-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack for the EVs.
The chargers communicate with a system that uses an algorithm to predict the electricity needed for the building for the day, as well as what levels of electricity the vehicles will need to be fully powered. According to ConEd, "The system reaches its conclusions based on the time of year, day of the week, weather and other factors."
In 2012, Columbia, FedEx and General Electric launched the EVs in the Manhattan location as a test. It has since turned into an experiment to test the best ways to save energy by using EVs.
"If you charged them at the same time, you'd overload the system, and there would be a blackout," Leon Wu, a researcher a Columbia University's Center for Computational Learning Systems, told Bloomberg back in 2012. "Or the transformer will explode. It would happen."
The researchers have already learned from their first test site, and have integrated their knowledge into a second FedEx facility, in Midtown Manhattan. In that facility, ConEd monitors the energy usage and can request conservation during high-demand times.
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