Vermont Electric Co-op seeking to regulate home water heaters to make way for renewables

JOHNSON, Vt. — The Vermont Electric Co-op is testing a new energy management device that will regulate Vermonters’ water heaters and energy so the grid can take on more wind and solar energy.

The device manufactured by Packetized Energy is designed to heat water when electricity is ample and sit idle when it is limited. This will not in any way affect the availability of hot water to customers, according to a VEC release.

Public domain

Water heaters across Vermont may soon be regulated by smart gadgets to help incorporate more renewable energy into the grid.

Lisa Morris, energy services planner for VEC, said customers who volunteer will not experience any disruption in water temperature and will also have the option of controlling the apparatus through a mobile app.

“Algorithms and programs are getting much more sophisticated in a way that’s really beneficial to the user who has the device installed, as well as the utility who’s managing the electric grid,” Morris said.

Customers are not bound to the program and will be able to opt out at any time if they decide it’s not working for them, she added.

Morris said programs already are in place that regulate basic electric, space heating, thermostats and batteries, among other things, so this isn’t a new concept. She claims the test device will not affect the way people use energy in their own homes.

“I think it can help us incorporate more renewable energy onto the grid, and that’s one of the things that we really need to tackle,” Morris said. “Traditionally, there were just central power stations and you could kind of turn them off or on depending on the needs of the grid.”

Paul Hines, co-founder of Packetized Energy, said the device resembles the functions of a thermostat, allowing customers to change the temperature as needed and monitor how much they are spending as a result.

“We’ve finished up almost a year’s worth of testing with Burlington Electric, [in] which we’ve learned a lot,” Hines said. “So this is sort of that improved device after that testing, and we’ll continue to be testing as we move forward.”

He said there are sections of the state where there is often too much renewable energy being generated that is thrown away due to wind and solar plants generating more power than is being consumed at the time.

The pilot water heater regulator can make a significant difference in allowing people to use renewable energy whenever it is available, he said.

“That’s really the vision, to make it possible to run the grid reliably with enormous amounts of clean energy,” Hines said.

Hines is confident the program will be successful in its second trial run with VEC, as there were almost no customer complaints during the first trial with Burlington Electric, he said.

“I think we have the potential to help people to have more affordable energy, to better incorporate renewable energy into the grid, and to keep costs low for everybody,” Hines said.

Briana Bocelli is a freelance writer for True North Reports. She lives in the Northeast Kingdom and is a senior at Castleton University.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Harvey McDaniel and Public domain

11 thoughts on “Vermont Electric Co-op seeking to regulate home water heaters to make way for renewables

  1. Batteries to Reduce Distribution Grid Disturbances due to Solar:

    Battery systems, tied to distribution grids with many PV solar systems, are used in California and Germany for “smoothing” (taking out the “fuzziness”), especially during variable cloudy weather.

    GMP has a program to install Tesla Powerwall 2.0 battery units at ratepayer premises. The units act as dampers, which work as follows:

    – The varying DC electricity of the PV systems is fed as AC into the distribution grid.
    – The battery systems absorb electricity from, or provide electricity to the grid, as needed to maintain distribution grid stability.
    – DC to AC inverters of the battery systems are about 85%, 50%, and 10% efficient at 20%, 10% and 2% outputs, respectively, i.e., 50% of the converted electricity is lost as heat, if charging and discharging occur at less than 10% of inverter capacity, unless multiple inverters are used.
    – The system round-trip loss, AC to DC into battery, DC to AC out of battery, is about 20%, on an annual average basis.

    The same can be done with water heaters.

    Some of the solar electricity is used for domestic hot water heating from about 9 am to 4 pm, as needed (during the other hours grid electricity is used), the rest of the solar electricity is used for other services in the house, and what is left over is sent to the grid.

    Wind turbines are connected to the high voltage grid. THEIR variable electricity is smoothed by the OTHER generators on the grid that perform the ESSENTIAL peaking, filling-in and balancing services, 24/7/365, year after year.

    Without the other generators, wind COULD NOT EXIST, unless there were huge, utility-scale storage systems, as with the large reservoir-based hydro plants of Hydro-Quebec.

    Quebec electricity, generated and purchased, was about 217 TWh in 2016, of which about 172 TWh/y from 36911 MW of 63 large hydro plants.
    – Reservoir, 28 plants, capacity 26843 MW, production about 124.7 TWh in 2016
    – Run of river, 35 plants, capacity 10068 MW, production about 47.3 TWh in 2016

    The active water storage of the reservoir plants is about 1/3 of total storage, which could generate about 176 TWh/y, about equal to Quebec’s annual electricity requirements. The active water storage is adequate to generate another 176 – 124.7 = 51.3 TWh/y. All plants are connected to the high voltage network. Modulating the water flows through the turbines performs the PFB functions.

    The combined storage reservoirs act as a giant battery that is continuously charged with rainwater and runoff and discharges water through turbines, as needed to meet electricity demand 24/7/365, year after year.

    In 2016, Quebec total net exports were 32.6 TWh, of which 12.3 TWh to New England and 20.3 TWh to other states, such as New York State. Revenues were $1.568 billion; average sales prices 4.8 c/kWh.
    http://www.hydroquebec.com/sustainable-development/energy-environment/export-markets.html

    NOTE: GMP, a Vermont utility, buys Hydro Quebec electricity at 5.549 c/kWh, under a 20-y contract, per GMP spreadsheet titled “GMP Test Year Power Supply Costs filed as VPSB Docket No: Attachment D, Schedule 2, April 14, 2017”. GMP refuses to buy more Quebec electricity. See URL.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/gmp-refusing-to-buy-additional-hydro-energy-from-hydro-quebec

    • Willem, your last sentence says it all, for GMP’s motivation at the least.

      It’s a safe bet that cost-benefit-analysis/bottom-line figure heavily into why the decision has been made to burden property owners with tolerating what amounts to the utility’s load smoothing equipment while paying them for the inconvenience.

      “Traditionally, there were just central power stations and you could kind of turn them off or on depending on the needs of the grid.” Couldn’t prove this by me. There aren’t any peaking generation facilities in Vermont, are there?

      Hines said. “So this is sort of that improved device after that testing, and we’ll continue to be testing as we move forward.”
      “He said there are sections of the state where there is often too much renewable energy being generated that is thrown away due to wind and solar plants generating more power than is being consumed at the time.”
      Total BS, meant to deceive those ignorant of power generation. If the generators are connected to the grid, someone somewhere will use the power generated. If the wind/solar power is “dissipated”, It must have flowed through some sort of load.

      Too many more sort ofs in this hawgwash article for me to deal with. GMP will say anything to get their profit agenda advanced.

      • Remiss of me to not have mentioned that life requires energy in one form or other, point being that GMP is jockeying for control of all our lives.

        The real question is, how long shall we allow them to get away with it?

        • Yes Golden Medallion Homes, all electric.
          When we built we were sucked in, but escaped. Ours was the first real HUGE electric cost for our home. We paid the extra for oil boiler heat.

          The Electric companies hope for political favors to get a full grasp on Energy, and are getting it.

          Just as the Burlington Hospital and it’s many minions hope to have total monopoly over health care and all the money that goes into it. MANY hospitals under it’s control, defying any competition, Control of the One Care $billions.

          Both have many allies in Legislature and Congress.

      • Hines and others likely have near zero education and experience, yet pontificate and exhumed BS, which sounds good/smart to lay people, but not at all to energy systems analysts with decades of experience.

        This commentary is full of discordant/illogical statements.

  2. Not a new thing. Years back if you put a timer on your electric water heater to avoid peak electric hours, you got some kind of break on your bill,

    Only trouble was that peak was when you were getting going in morning, and supper dishes and bathe the kids.

    But it was available.

    • I do remember that! The All Electric craze responsible for so many springing for the promised lower rates.

      My good friend at the time, who shall remain nameless lest he suffer retribution, was to blame for having sold and closed many “All Electric” contracts with little concern for R-values that he was well-bonused — and un-conscienced. The OffPeak rate (separate meter) obligated the purchase/installation of the largest water heaters available – which were, naturally, available for purchase thru the utility (sold by a relative employed in their appliance sales department) — if the customer wished to have adequate hot water available.

      While I never heard of anyone’s power bill having been actually lowered numerous backs were scratched, and hands washed other hands. A developer in the area was building / selling “vacation homes” in a “development” that are to this day All Electric in large part due to the logistics of conversion, along with rules and regs of the “association”. You would definitely recognize the name(s).

  3. Vermont , now you have the Electric Gestapo ….. Keep voting Liberal Idiots in !!
    Maybe one day you’ll lean , if it’s not to late already ………………………

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *