By Matt Nauman
A high-tech robotic tool that adds more safety to a work process; a comprehensive map that details where fast chargers could most benefit California’s blooming electric vehicle market; and two of the first market-participating large-scale energy storage facilities providing energy and ancillary services in California energy markets.
These are some of the direct results from advanced technology demonstration projects comprising the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. PG&E completed 14 technology demonstration projects as part of EPIC in 2016, which are highlighted in PG&E’s recently filed EPIC Annual Report.
These projects were designed to evaluate and validate technologies that help PG&E meet key objectives such as enabling continued growth of distributed energy resources and modernizing the grid, all while continuing to advance safety, reliability, and affordability for our customers.
“What we’re learning from these EPIC projects will directly benefit our customers in terms of saving money, improving reliability and advancing grid efficiency. The results will both be used operationally by a number of our teams here at PG&E, as well as by other energy companies, technology companies, and other stakeholders who will benefit from these results,” said Kevin Dasso, vice president, Electric Asset Management, PG&E.
The projects covered a wide spectrum of technologies that have the potential to make the electric grid safer, more reliable, and more affordable for our customers. Some notable examples of EPIC achievements highlighted in the Annual Report include:
- Direct Current Fast Charge (DCFC) Mapping: Identified optimal locations within PG&E’s service area for DCFC Electric Vehicle chargers based on factors such as cost, available infrastructure, traffic patterns, and site host and driver preference. DCFCs enable electric vehicles to recharge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes or less, which is critical for supporting growth of electric vehicles. The team identified more than 14,000 individual potential charger host sites, which were developed into an interactive online map that visualizes the optimal DCFC locations in PG&E’s territory. Additionally, the project developed best practice guidelines for siting DCFCs, which further encourages electric vehicle adoption by drivers, site hosts, and developers.
- Energy Storage for Market Operations: PG&E successfully tested how large-scale battery storage systems perform in the CAISO market, substantially helping to inform the conversation about energy storage in California. PG&E’s 2 megawatt (MW) Vaca-Dixon and 4 MW Yerba Buena battery storage systems provided energy and ancillary services in CAISO markets. The Vaca-Dixon system was the first battery storage resource in California to participate in the market. The Yerba Buena system, in San Jose, was the first battery storage resource to both participate in the market and serve a reliability function supporting PG&E customers in the event of a disturbance or outage.
- Close Proximity Switching: PG&E collaborated with a few robotic tool vendors to design and demonstrate a robotic device in both a lab and field setting that allows workers to more safely operate certain underground equipment that have a potential risk of failure. The devices allow the worker to operate these switches from about 25 feet away, rather than standing over the enclosure as was needed with other tool approaches. This provided a greater safety clearance for the operator, as well as made monitoring the pedestrian activity in the area easier, thereby better protecting employees and the public in case of switch failure.
The EPIC program plays a vital role in helping PG&E drive the innovation needed to help meet California’s policy and clean energy goals while also ensuring the safe, reliable and affordable operation of the grid. To date, PG&E has launched 34 EPIC projects, including the 14 projects that closed in 2016. These projects help advance the energy technology landscape, leading to product solutions that are beneficial for our customers, the environment, and the economy.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.