Energy storage: Is the time finally right for grid-integrated water heaters?

Energy storage: Is the time finally right for grid-integrated water heaters?

Several recent projects have demonstrated that grid-scale energy storage can be accomplished by managing a fleet of electric water heaters. Companies are producing controllers that work with existing water heaters. They then aggregate those water heaters into a virtual storage pool.

"Grid-integrated water heater" is the new term of art. The controller communicates cellular or Internet connection to receive signals when to switch on or off. (Some people are using the same technology for electric space heaters, too.)

"Demonstrations from Hawaii to Pennsylvania to the eastern banks of Canada are showing that a "fleet" of water or space heaters can act as a sort of fast-acting sponge that absorbs extra electricity on the grid, especially wind power," explains David Ferris at EENews.net. He cites new technology that can "make a crowd of heaters as responsive as a traditional power plant."

Four years of testing in Canada

In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, commercial and residential water heaters are storing energy from wind farms. "I think what we're demonstrating is that this works," said Michel Losier, a program director at NB Power in New Brunswick. He admits, however, that "it's a bit clunky yet."

EENews.net reports that Ohio-based Battelle is close to spinning off an enterprise to commercialize this technology. And North Dakota's Steffes Group Steffes was recently awarded a U.S. patent for its dynamic dispatch system for domestic water heaters, space heaters and other appliances. Even Hawaii is getting into the act with a pilot project involving 100 water heaters.

Source: Smart Grid News

SMART GRID Bulletin March 2017


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