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Google Tries to Kickstart an Energy Revolution

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grist.org

This is a neat tech story that I think could auger much larger things -- Google.org is funding a $10 million pilot project around vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology.

If you're not familiar, V2G refers to cars that are equipped with batteries that can not only charge from the grid, but can release energy back into the grid. The idea is that most of them would charge at night, when electricity demand is low, and be available to feed small increments of power back into the grid during the day. (Most cars are, after all, parked most of the time.)

Why should that matter? Well, a big problem with the grid today is that when it produces excess electricity, it has no place to put it. It can't store surplus juice. So it all gets burnt off, and we have to build enough generation capacity to meet peak demand in real time -- we have to build the maximum number of power plants we might need at our neediest moments. But if energy were stored, it could smooth out those spikes in demand -- "time shift" the power, to use the lingo. We wouldn't have to build out as much new generation capacity.

In other words: less oil and less coal.

Every energy geek I know is excited about this stuff, and it looks like Google got tired of waiting around for the dessicated transportation-industrial complex to do something about it. It's a small project, but if it catches the imagination of the young, wealthy, urban tech audience, it could cascade. Something to keep an eye on.

Here's a short video about it: