ZEF Energy Working to Boost Electric Grid Stability with EV Chargers and PV

A vanguard of electricity industry innovators will implement and study methods to optimize solar resources and EV smart chargers for utility and ratepayer benefits

MINNEAPOLIS, MN [April 16, 2018] – ZEF Energy is part of a team that was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to participate in a collaborative research effort to explore new ways solar energy can improve the affordability, reliability, and resiliency of the nation’s electric grid.

The Minnesota-based team, including ZEF Energy, will work to test the capabilities and benefits of combining Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) smart chargers with solar photovoltaic (PV) installations (EV+PV). The goal of the research is to enable greater stability, flexibility and resiliency for the electric grid distribution and transmission systems as energy from renewable resources continues to grow as a percentage of supply.

ZEF Energy’s team is one of just nine teams selected to join the program, which is known as the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN).

“We selected teams that are experimenting with promising ideas to use solar power to improve the future of grid security and reliability in their communities,” said Kristen Ardani, who leads the Innovation Network at NREL.

The team’s participation in the Solar Energy Innovation Network will include financial, analytical, and facilitation support as it works to anticipate and address new challenges and opportunities stemming from solar energy and other distributed energy resource (DER) technologies in the Upper Midwest. The solutions developed and demonstrated by ZEF Energy and the Minnesota-based team will serve as a blueprint for other communities in the region facing similar challenges and opportunities.

Specifically, this project will examine possible combinations of EV smart charging stations and solar PV installations to alleviate supply and demand imbalances that are exemplified in California’s current challenges with the “duck curve” created by increased solar generation. It has been shown that better demand-side management and energy efficiency solutions can benefit utilities and consumers. Charging EVs with solar energy during the day, discharging some energy to smooth rising demand in the evening, and using low-cost wind or nuclear energy resources to charge vehicles at night can shrink both the belly (daytime) and steep upward neck (evening ramp-up) of the duck curve.

“ZEF Energy is building upon its existing network of DC Fast Charging Stations and its rollout of Level 2 Smart Chargers to reduce range anxiety, link major transportation corridors in the Midwest and reduce load on the electric grid,” according to Matthew Blackler, CEO of ZEF Energy. “Partnering to combine solar PV installations with our Level 2 EV Smart Chargers will enable quantifiable improvements to grid stability, demand response effectiveness and electricity use efficiency. We believe this proactive work will result in taking big bites out of the duck curve risk in the Upper Midwest.”

This project will analyze the benefits of and possible electricity rate structures compatible with co-locating solar PV and EV smart charging stations, including peak shaving, supply and demand balancing for other renewable energy sources on the grid, and load shifting.

“EV smart chargers provide essential data for the SEIN project, and they enable us to intelligently drive the greatest benefits to ratepayers, drivers and utilities,” said Brendan Jordan, a vice president at the Great Plains Institute. “Utilizing EV smart chargers in conjunction with solar energy production holds the potential for higher levels of solar penetration to the grid, provides flexible energy resources at home and the workplace. It creates a reliable tool for utilities to make the sustainable, smart electric grid a reality.”

The team hopes to identify the value to transmission system operators, utilities, EV drivers, charging station owners and the public. We believe that widespread EV adoption can help utilities reduce and better control energy loads on the grid while contributing to a more sustainable economy, and we are going to test that hypothesis.

NREL is operating the Solar Energy Innovation Network with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. NREL pursues fundamental research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to transform the way we use energy.

About ZEF Energy

ZEF Energy is the largest EV charging infrastructure solutions provider in the Upper Midwest. Its mission is to remove barriers to EV ownership while enabling electric utilities to manage and balance the load on the electric grid. The ZEF Energy DC Fast Charging network is being built to make cross-state travel by EV as convenient and accessible as traveling by gas-powered vehicle. Founded in 2014, ZEF Energy has worked with cities and utilities among non-profit and for-profit partners to provide increased availability of reliable and cost-effective EV-charging across the Midwest. Learn more at www.zefenergy.com.

About Great Plains Institute

As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, The Great Plains Institute works with diverse interests to transform the energy system to benefit the economy and environment. We combine our unique consensus-building approach, expert knowledge, research and analysis, and local action to work on solutions that strengthen communities and provide greater economic opportunity through creation of higher paying jobs, expansion of the nation’s industrial base, and greater domestic energy independence while eliminating carbon emissions. Learn more at www.betterenergy.org.


ZEF Energy Level 2 EV Smart Charger

ZEF Energy Existing and Planned DC Fast Charging Network Locations

The Electric Grid Load “Duck Curve” Predicted and Confirmed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO)