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February 6th, 2009
But most of all, they focused on how the next generation of plug-ins could solve a problem that has plagued the electricity industry: energy storage.
Unlike the water supply system, which has reservoirs to balance supply and demand, the electric system must balance input and output on a near-instantaneous basis.
Right now, the wizardlike grid operator sends pulses of information every two to four seconds to coal-fired and natural-gas plants in the system, telling them to rev up production. Or slow down.
That prevents the plants from operating most efficiently, much the way a car guzzles more gas when it speeds up and slows down constantly instead of cruising in its sweet spot of fuel efficiency.
Supporters see the new plug-in vehicles as a stabilizing addition. They envision thousands or millions of car batteries taking electricity from the grid during low-demand periods, such as overnight, and sending electricity back into the grid at times of heavy demand.
It could help the industry shave the peaks _ important, because the whole system has to be sized for the highest demands to avoid brownouts _ and fill the valleys, when some power plants might otherwise be slow.
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