The IN2 startups will complete their demonstrations over the next year or two, helping them in their goal to see their technologies gain market acceptance. Giving each startup a real-world opportunity for its technology backed up with technical assistance from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) helps de-risk new customer acquisition by providing a concrete example of success.
The key part of NineDot Energy’s success is understanding the time and place to improve the grid, and Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Adam Cohen hopes NREL can help him find the golden spot.
“We’re trying to pinpoint where on the grid the power is needed most,” Cohen said. “Where on the grid can you interconnect at lower costs without having impacts on the system, and which location will provide the most help when the grid needs support.”
During the past summer, NineDot Energy installed a demonstration of its vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging system in Brooklyn, New York. The New York City Fire Department has strict codes, which make installing large lithium-ion batteries indoors very difficult at the moment. However, the fire department does allow batteries inside electric vehicles (EVs) in the many parking garages across the city.
NineDot’s method is to charge the EVs overnight, during hours when there is lower demand on the electrical grid, and then send the charged energy back to the grid during high-demand hours, such as in the afternoon and early evening. This is especially useful in a community like the New York City area, because many people tend to leave vehicles in garages for long periods of time.
“There’s lots of batteries on wheels in parking lots all across the densest part of New York,” Cohen said. “If they are parked in the right place at the right time, they can act as a storage battery, providing energy to the local grid when needed.”
The right place at the right time is the key message. NREL is currently assisting NineDot Energy with finding the best for both in the New York City area.
“It’s all about managing demand versus supply,” said NREL Senior Researcher in power systems engineering Manish Mohanpurkar, who is the principal investigator for NineDot’s project with IN2. “You have to maintain a balance — consume when it’s abundant, discharge when it’s scarce.”
The demonstration started in July and went through September, and there are plans to resume it when the summer starts in 2023 — as summer is when the New York City grid is stressed the most. NineDot partnered with Fermata Energy to help develop the V2G process, and Revel, which has a fleet of all-EV rideshare vehicles in New York City, to provide the charging location and some of the cars. It also includes Cohen’s own Nissan Leaf with his personalized “V2G” license plate.
“When you work with EVs that are fleet owned and operated, the cars aren’t personal items. They’re not like a piece of artwork. They are utilitarian,” Cohen said. “Companies like Revel are going to use them for what’s most valuable. They’re going to look at the bottom line.”
Working with NREL gives NineDot the benefit of comprehensive data evaluation as the company strives to validate the charging process under different conditions.
“They are right in the middle of a busy distribution network with lots of demand on the electricity grid. Being able to look at vehicle-to-grid charging in that environment is exciting,” Mohanpurkar said. “Life is as fast as it can go, in the U.S. at least, there. You can’t get better than that.”
One hurdle is that not every EV manufacturer allows V2G, even though the car is capable of it. Convincing EV companies to allow it is part of this process, especially since the focus of these manufacturers is on effective transportation. In some instances, there are technical barriers and gaps that need to be addressed before V2G or V2X (X being anything) can become a widespread reality. Many manufacturers are reserved because any battery in the world has a limited number of cycles and V2G could use those cycles up. However, signs point to a change.
“Vehicle-to-grid is an added benefit. It’s an additional perk that one can try and leverage,” Mohanpurkar said. “Now, several manufacturers already have plans to be able to provide the capability of doing V2G. The last mile of the demonstration, what NineDot Energy is doing, is what we are seeking. Hopefully, with this data, many people will open their doors. At some point in time, I feel that it might be a regular practice.”
Cohen said it continues to be a breakout year for NineDot. When they started their IN2 program in February, the company was just him, his fellow co-founders, and two part-time employees. NineDot now has 25 full-time employees and is actively hiring.
“The last nine months have been quite a journey for NineDot,” he said. “Because of the IN2 award, we’re spending a lot of the resources thinking about how this is the future that we might not have been able to focus on otherwise. It gives us a sandbox to explore innovations and then bring them to the real world.”
As Mohanpurkar oversees the day-to-day work with NineDot, he continues to search for more ways NREL can provide support.
“We are hoping that it’s a very fruitful journey, but to get there it’s going to go through a few iterations and trials,” he said. “Hopefully we can help NineDot Energy get there faster.”
IN2 Demonstration Series:
Article courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
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