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Colorado’s United Power wants to work with 50 EV owners to figure out how their batteries can best be used to manage demands on the electrical grid


United Power, the electrical cooperative serving 110,000 members on Denver’s northern fringe, has a deal for 50 residential customers with electric vehicles.

It will install wall-mounted 220-volt (level 2) chargers. This will cost $19 a month for servicing.

In turn, United will be able to manage the intersection of these battery chargers to enable United to most effectively manage the grid on its distribution system.

Dean Hubbuck, the chief energy officer at United Power, says the cooperative wants to learn how to reduce peak demand, which utility managers call “load.”

Think about an electric vehicle. It’s almost certain to be the large “appliance” in a home, says Hubbuck. If United has the ability to reduce or eliminate charging of the EV when United’s distribution grid is straining to meet demand, United can pay less for electricity from its wholesale providers.

Xcel Energy has long had a similar program involving larger air conditioners. Customers participating in the program allow Xcel to eliminate power to the energy-sucking air conditioners for 15 minutes every hour. This allows Xcel to ensure continued reliable power deliveries. Customers get a little price break.

Many utilities are thinking about demand-side management techniques, but with this new program, United Power will join the front tier.

Other electrical cooperatives, as well as some other utilities, have started investigating the interface of electric vehicles with the electrical grid in other ways, too. Durango-based La Plata Electric has a program involving school bus batteries in which it is attempting to tap those batteries to meet peak demands.

Holy Cross Energy has approached the same intersection in a slightly different way. It offered to install Tesla home batteries to members in its 55,000-member service territory in the Vail, Aspen and Rifle areas.

Again, the utility will be able to manage the interface between residential needs, including electric charging, and the needs of the grid. The goal of utilities in all this is to shift demand, not eliminate it or to preempt choices made by consumers without their advance consent.

La Plata Electric was first in Colorado to move in yet a different way, providing an interface between electrical demand and batteries of electric school buses.

United already has two sets of batteries of its own. A 4-megawatt array of Tesla batteries can be found inside a chain-link fence behind the electrical cooperative’s Carbon Valley service center, located along I-25 between Firestone and Longmont. Another battery assembly of 500 kilowatt-hour capacity is located at the United headquarters along Interstate 70 near Barr Lake.

Hubbuck said United Power is still investigating what kind of a battery program involving its individual members will be offered somewhat similar to that of Holy Cross Energy. He predicted an announcement in the next six months.

Allen Best
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