Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blackouts a reminder of the potential advantage of Vehicle-to-Grid power supply

NYU Langone Medical Center:
At times with only flashlights to illuminate the way, NYU Langone Medical Center began evacuating about 260 patients, carrying some of them down 15 flights of stairs to awaiting ambulances ready to take them to the safety of other hospitals.... 
But between 7 and 7:45 p.m. Monday, the hospital's basement, lower floors and elevator shafts filled with 10 to 12 feet of water, and the hospital lost its power, according to Dr. Andrew Brotman, senior vice president and vice dean for clinical affairs and strategy.
"Things went downhill very, very rapidly and very unexpectedly," Brotman said. "The flooding was just unprecedented." 
Emergency generators did kick in, but two hours later, about 90% of that power went out, and the hospital decided to evacuate patients.
I wrote a while back about an idea I'm researching of using electric vehicles to supplement backup power during blackouts, a bridge to the truly big idea of Vehicle-to-Grid battery power storing energy from intermittent renewable sources, for release when needed.  This article suggests another reason for EVs as additional power backup - in case your emergency generators fail.

Hospitals strike me as pretty power-hungry, so I'm not sure how long EVs could support them, but you could probably triage crucial uses and cut off the rest.  Any extra time would likely be appreciated.

Somewhat related - I attended a lecture by a Japanese consular official last summer on recovery from the tsunami.  He said that electric networks took only days to get back online, while gasoline supplies took weeks.  The implication is that a system relying more on EVs than gas engines will be more resilient.  Unfortunately we have another chance to see how that plays out here, albeit on a much smaller scale of tragedy.

UPDATE:  as of Saturday Nov. 3, it appears that power is coming back faster than fuel supplies.