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OnStar Smart Grid Sees First Real-World Use in Solar EV Charging Project

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OnStar TimberRock Press Infographic

OnStar announced a project with TimberRock Energy Solutions that uses aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to benefit the electric grid. TimberRock will monitor the output of its solar charge stations and its fleet of Chevrolet Volts to regulate energy flow and even sell energy back to the grid. (Image courtesy General Motors)

The folks at OnStar are teaming with energy services company TimberRock Energy Solutions to manage the flow of solar power to the electric grid in what a General Motors press release called the “first real-world use of OnStar’s Smart Grid solutions.”

TimberRock will reportedly monitor its solar EV charging stations, keeping tabs on how much energy is available and when it might be feasible to sell some energy back to the grid to help utility companies meet peak demand, the release said. TimberRock will then control the charging of its fleet of four Chevrolet Volts as a way to help regulate energy flow thanks to a software algorithm that allows TimberRock to start, stop, or modulate the amount of charge going to any of the Volts according to energy need.

Enabling TimberRock to manage this flow of energy is an OnStar program called Demand Response, which the energy services company accessed via OnStar’s Smart Grid application programming interface when building its algorithm. TimberRock’s Volts can even reportedly “be used to support the grid,” according to the release.

GM Global Manager of Smart Grid and EV Services Paul Pebbles said, “We have given TimberRock the ability to use Demand Response to efficiently control the charging of their fleet of Volts. This is the first time a demonstration of Demand Response is being taken beyond lab or university studies.”

The release said Pebbles envisions a day when EV and PHEV buyers could receive financial benefits from letting a company like TimberRock to manage the charging of their vehicles.

“Down the line, this could really incentivize solar charging for EV drivers,” he said.

“This opens the door for solutions like this to be brought to the public, which could increase the benefits of owning an electric vehicle. Whether it’s charging with solar or wind energy, or even standard electricity, consumers will start to see that they have options when it comes to managing their EVs.”

The release said in addition to helping companies like TimberRock develop charging solutions, programs like Demand Response “could also help utilities manage the electric grid load.”

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