Toyota to Launch Smart Grid Demonstration Project

The village of Rokkasho, near the northern tip of the island of Honshu in Japan, is the location for a two-year smart grid demonstration that is generating power exclusively from renewable energy sources.

The research will, in part, demonstrate how the low emissions benefits of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids can be further supported by the use of carbon-free power for recharging.

Toyota and its project partners JWD, Panasonic Electric Works and Hitachi, have constructed an isolated grid that is CO2-free, distributing electricity produced by the world’s first wind power stations and local solar energy (photovoltaic) generation. As the grid is self-contained, its operation can be adjusted and monitored through test scenarios that replicate different levels of supply and demand, or specific regional factors, such as remote locations or local weather patterns.

The grid supplies six “smart houses” equipped with different energy management systems and automatic metering. A “hub” battery has been built to store electricity and adjust supply to meet demand. In addition, Toyota has supplied eight Prius Plug-in Hybrids and vehicle charging points.

A series of experiments will test and assess the effectiveness of various ways of adjusting demand and energy management in line with the local environmental conditions in different target countries and regions around the world, including Japan, Europe and emerging nations. The aim is to develop power system supply technologies that address a range of needs, including reducing CO2, stabilising power supply and making efficient use of renewable energy like wind energy.

On the supply side, any surplus electricity generated will be stored in the hub battery and heat storage units. In the event of a power shortage, the battery will provide electricity to maintain the level required.

Different methods will be used to adjust power usage, for example by providing residents with information about how the system works and pricing. The smart houses will also be able to take part in power trading with their neighbours.

Toyota’s principal activity in the demonstration project will be test the Toyota Smart Centre (TSC) system for creating and controlling the smart houses, plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHV) control systems and energy consumption and storage. TSC governs electricity storage in batteries and the “EcoCute” hot water heaters installed in the houses, taking usage patterns and supply loads into account.

It will also test Toyota Smart Vision (TSV), a tool for visualising electricity conditions in a community; home energy monitoring systems (HEMS); smartphones; and new in-vehicle display-audio units. The smart grid demonstration project was launched this week will continue through to July 2012.