Pairing electric vehicle (EV) charging and battery storage, now taking place on national charging networks, could present an opportunity for electric cooperatives, says one of the leading co-op experts on renewable and advanced technologies.
“I believe it’s going to be part of the solution as EV demand increases,” says Peter Muhoro, chief strategy, technology and innovation officer at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “And it could be a good play for co-ops in certain circumstances.”
The growing interest in pairing storage with charging reflects EV trends. Although overall car sales fell last year, EV purchases were up by nearly two-thirds, reaching 5.8% of cars sold in the U.S., a total of 807,180 fully electric vehicles, according to market research firm Motor Intelligence. Further gains are predicted in coming years as the 5% threshold has been considered the tipping point for accelerated growth.
As EVs grow in popularity, the need for charging stations and ways to power those stations also grows. Muhoro notes that an eight-bay Tesla super-charging station could be equivalent to a Super Walmart, around 1.2 megawatts of load or higher. Like gas in a gas station, consumers expect that power to be available whenever they need it, even during demand peaks.
“I want to make sure that if I need to charge my car, I can charge my car,” Muhoro says. “That’s where pairing battery storage with charging becomes a big player.”
Electrify America, which has integrated battery storage into more than 150 charging stations, unveiled its first megawatt battery storage system last fall in Baker, California. Earlier this year, ChargePoint, which operates another charging network, announced a partnership with Stem, a utility-scale battery storage company, to integrate Stem’s storage at fast-charging stations along highway corridors.
For electric co-ops, Muhoro points out, battery storage at charging sites could provide the ability to manage the load while also serving local communities seeking to meet growing consumer demand. It will require a careful analysis of usage patterns and load, but Muhoro says, “We are going to see places where battery storage makes sense.”