Keeping the Lights On: Plexflo’s Data Analytics and What They Mean for Power Infrastructures

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You’ve probably heard the buzz over electric cars within the past several years, as “self-driving” cars and other models hit the markets– but much of the conversation surrounding their technological development involves convenience for drivers or the concept of zero tailpipe emissions and what that means for our global environment. Their potential positive impact on the current U.S. power infrastructure problems is something that often goes undiscussed.

Access to electricity is the kind of thing that people tend to take for granted– until they don’t have it anymore. You expect the lights to turn on when you flip a switch, you expect to be able to charge your phone and other devices, and you expect that food will stay good inside your refrigerator and freezer… and when a power failure happens, the effects are jarring, affecting virtually every aspect of our daily lives.

So how do electric vehicles factor into this, and just what do cars have to do with the power infrastructure?

As demand on our aging power grids increases, and climate change continues to accelerate, there’s been a considerable amount of discussion and experimentation regarding the power that electric vehicles have to operate as emergency generators in the event of power failure or natural disaster.

Theoretically, a fully-charged electric vehicle in your driveway could function as a generator for your family’s home, powering necessary equipment and appliances during a blackout. The concept of citizens with electric vehicles selling power back to the grid during times of peak demand is also a possibility, depending on technology and people’s willingness to participate.

Dr. Sayonsom Chanda, an electrical engineer and entrepreneur originally from Kolkata, India, has dedicated his life to the improvement of power infrastructure. He believes that electric vehicles, or EVs, will play a major role in providing reliable access to power in the future– not just in the United States, but worldwide.

He’s developed a system of data analytics software called Plexflo, which offers a service called EV-Growth. Dr. Chanda explains, “EV-Growth helps utility companies understand what the shift in peak energy demand under different EV adoption scenarios would be.

This kind of analytics helps utility companies with winter preparation, or summer peak preparation… our analytics and forecasts can be extended to ten years in the future, so it can help engineers understand what the impact would be of so many cars on their assets, quantify the emissions reductions that the utility companies have enabled by adding new infrastructures for EVs, and even model the degradation of utility assets as more and more EVs are drawing power from the grid.”

Unfortunately, within the past 5-7 years, the number of blackouts in the United States has increased by over 50%. This is happening for two reasons: an aging power infrastructure, and increasing natural disasters due to climate change.

The majority of the power equipment within the United States was built in the mid-twentieth century. That means that much of the equipment directly responsible for powering our homes, offices, hospitals, and more is 60 or 70 years old at this point.

A massive wildfire occurred in 2018, referred to as the Camp Fire because it started on Camp Creek Road, in Northern California’s Butte County. The fire killed 84 people and destroyed countless homes and businesses, displacing tens of thousands of people– and it all happened because of some ninety-year-old equipment that was ignored during Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) inspections.

Aside from mere convenience and charged devices, power is an essential part of a functioning society. Not only do hospitals and disabled individuals who require medical equipment require reliable access to electricity, basic municipal utilities like water and sewage treatment rely on access to power as well. Without clean water and proper handling of wastewater, our society is put at risk.

Plexflo offers another service called EVidence, which allows utility companies to understand which customers are charging electric vehicles on the grid in real time. Our current power infrastructures can’t necessarily handle charging thousands of electric vehicles at once, especially during times when energy demand is at its peak.

EV-Now offers the possibility for utility companies to offer a discount to customers for charging vehicles during hours when demand is lower, which will help to keep the grid from becoming overloaded.

Obviously, there are massive improvements required all over the world in order to ensure that everyone has access to reliable power even in the event of natural disasters. Improvements and modifications to existing power infrastructures will take a considerable amount of time and money, but programs like Plexflo that use real-time data to analyze current and future scenarios will help electrical engineers plan ahead to bring us into a fully-powered, climate-friendly future. 

About Plexflo

Plexflo helps utilities build detailed EV adoption and charging behavior models to improve the sustainability, reliability and affordability of the power grid as it evolves. 

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