Toyota’s Drive to Home Energy Storage

Solar panels at Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch charge a battery storage system that supplies energy to facilities for several hours each day. (Photo By: National Park Service)

Solar panels at Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch charge a battery storage system that supplies energy to facilities for several hours each day. (Photo By: National Park Service)

AUSTIN, Texas—Home energy storage technology could take off with power from reconditioned electric vehicle batteries, a Toyota official said.

"At some point those batteries [in cars] are going to need replacing," said Kevin Butt, general manager of environmental programs at Toyota Motor North America. "We can get another 15 to 20 years of life out of these repurposed batteries by building them into 10-kilowatt systems or potentially 200-kilowatt systems." 

In a keynote address at Smart Energy Summit 2017, Butt cited a project at Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone National Park as an example.

Toyota worked with the National Park Service to develop an energy storage project for use in conjunction with a solar array. More than 200 reconditioned EV batteries installed at the site provide backup power overnight or during low solar power production periods. 

These batteries could also be mounted on flatbed trailers, pre-charged and deployed as emergency power following major outages to help keep critical services like hospitals and evacuation centers operating.

Besides being used to balance energy output available from wind or solar arrays, repurposed batteries could also be used in conjunction with renewable resources at remote locations unserved by grid-connected central power.

In time, recycling and reusing batteries has the potential for a cost-effective and a more environmentally friendly alternative to disposal.

Today, there are many practical hurdles that would need to be overcome first, said Andrew Cotter, program manager at NRECA's Business and Technology Strategies unit, who is familiar with the technology.

Issues such as warranties and reliability will require co-ops to take a cautious approach in comparing the cost and value of refurbished systems over a new battery.

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