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Tokyo Power Quake-proofs Its Grid Control System

Backup facility is designed to withstand extreme jolts

2 min read

For a land regularly pummeled by typhoons and shaken by earthquakes, not to mention its several active volcanoes, Japan suffers remarkably few electric power disruptions of any duration. In the 10-year period between 1992 and 2001, customers of Japan's largest power supplier, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), suffered an average power outage of less than 5 minutes in any given year.

By comparison, customers of 65 power utilities across 24 states in the United States had sustained power interruptions totaling 107 minutes on average in any one year during the same period, according to the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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