Tool development to investigate the impact of plug-in electric vehicles on electric utility grids
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With soaring gas prices, the importance of alternative energy in the transportation sector is being scrutinized as never before. Using electrical energy to power the vehicles is one such proposition, which looks brighter compared to other sources of energy. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) can change dependence on fossil fuels to other developing sources. However, a comprehensive analysis of existing electric utility infrastructure with specific identification of localized grid capacity and correlation for expansion is needed. This research focuses on the development of a comprehensive software tool to assess the impact of PHEVs on the electric utility grid. The tool uses information on PHEV penetration in geographical areas, overlays the information on the existing grid infrastructure down to the feeder level and provides what-if capabilities to determine capacity margins for subsequent planning analysis by the utility. The tool was developed in partnership with a large north-east USA utility and demonstration results are given to show the impact on portions of the existing grid. The tool can be used to optimally dispatch a PHEV fleet for charging and control discharging on a 24-hour cycle. But would need technology advancements in two-way communication between the customer and the utility. Besides capacity assessment, benefits from vehicle-to-grid (peak power shaving) and "valley filling" for the utility can be provided. Future work aims at incorporating savings in emissions, cost-savings by a PHEV owner, etc. Though the tool is developed for PHEV impact, the tool can also have defined, scheduled loads (emulated as variable charging scenarios) and be applied to micro-grids or isolated distribution. This allows application to assessing the impact of Telecom Centers, Data Centers and Server Farms, which house local energy storage.