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Water Heaters Can Act as Battery Storage for Grid

A new study by energy consultants Ecofys shows that home water heaters can help the power grid to accommodate the variable nature of wind energy, and thereby help integrate wind into regional power grids.

The project, funded by Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest Power and Conservation Council, demonstrated that residential electric water heaters, furnaces, and refrigerated warehouses can all help provide energy storage at a much lower cost than other alternatives, such as batteries.

“Water heaters can act as battery storage for the power grid.” – Gary Huhta, Cowlitz County Public Utility District Power Resources Manager

Wind power generation is subject to the variable rates of wind at the turbines, which can rise or fall throughout the day, and energy storage is necessary to buffer those changes (by storing energy when winds increase, and releasing it when they drop off). Battery storage, while relatively straight-forward in principle and execution, is also fairly expensive to install and maintain, so finding other ways to provide cost-effective energy storage can help to integrate wind energy into regional electric grids.

The demo project covered over one MW of consumer demand across seven different utilities, roughly equal to 150 electric car chargers, and according to the Ecofys project manager, was successfully able to “increase and decrease demand levels as needed by the grid” while also increasing customer satisfaction.


“The project showed that loads have the potential to supply services that are currently provided to BPA by the region’s hydropower system.” – Lee Hall, BPA’s Smart Grid Program Manager

BPA and other regional utilities will be able to use the data from the project in order to further develop a smart end-use energy strategy. BPA and Ecofys are also partnering again for another demo project, this time looking at the possibility for data centers to provide an equivalent resource for energy storage.

Results of the study are available as a PDF: Smart End-use Energy Storage and Integration of Renewable Energy

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