Electric America

The People and Places Powering the USA

Latte with a Side of Juice- Powering Up and Staying Charged

You’re strolling down the street heading to the subway. A museum and a movie are on the day’s agenda. Spotify is playing your favorite playlist. Twitter is open in the background. Then you get the notification - Low Power, 10%. You have two options. You can make it through the rest of your day in low power mode and risk your phone dying, cutting off communication to your entire social network, your navigation and therefore your mobility, and access to important information- movie time, weather, subway app, NYTimes alerts.  Or you can stop and charge it.  You regret not packing a charged backup battery. So, you stop in to the nearest coffee shop, identify the open outlets, and steal a spot near one. Once you squeeze in between the row of laptops, and plug in, you order your latte and wait to charge up.  You’re late to the movie, but are able to send a quick text to your friend, and eventually get there. The 1kWh to charge your phone, which typically costs $.10 at home, costs you a $4 latte to access the retailer’s energy supply, and a 20 minute delay.

More often than we care to admit, on-demand access to electricity influences our day to day activities. It dictates what retailer we stop into (typically the nearest one), where we sit when we’re there, how we get to places, and even how we communicate along the way. Access to electricity impacts where and how we spend our money, and ill-preparedness results in higher costs and changes to scheduled activities.

Picture the same scenario, except this time you have a charged back up battery. You bring your own power supply, and you go back to your scheduled activities- you optimize your route based on the subway schedule, you check other rideshare options and weigh time versus cost savings, and make an informed decision to catch the L train. No stopping for charging and no extra cost. It’s a micro form of energy independence.  You manage your energy use, knowing that two full charges can and will get you through the day. You make it to the movie on time, springing for popcorn, your favorite treat. When you get home at the end of the night, you recharge your phone and your backup battery at the utility’s retail rate of $.10/kwH.

The storage mechanism, and your ability to provide your own on-demand power, is liberating, and keeps you from being in a vulnerable situation. The example above is simple, but being without a charged phone can make you vulnerable to real dangers, which I’m sure your mother has reminded you of on several occasions. Can you even imagine if not just one electronic device, but your entire home was out of power?

Draining the electricity on a rechargeable iPhone is certainly different than losing your source supply at home, but the consequences and solutions are the same.  The effect of losing power is that you’re vulnerable, and the solution is backup storage.  

If having a charged phone is key to continued activity, functionality, wellness and happiness, a charged home is integral to the health and wellness of a family. Cooking, heating, air conditioning, hot water,  and electronics are all critical and reliant on electricity supply. While few in the United States have experienced significant black or brownouts, they are a reality more and more during extreme weather events.  If there was a battery that could be used for backup as well adopted and useful as your portable phone battery, would you buy it? if you could plug in a battery and protect the loads served by electricity in your home, would you?

After Sandy, many people invested in back-up generators. Generation, coupled with backup storage, is the next investment for homeowners and building owners. Options for in-home batteries are expanding, and the prices will continue to decrease as competition increases. Even though batteries are still expensive, and capacity is limited, the consequences of losing power are significant, and waiting till you lose power is not the answer. The technology and economics will advance; the market is moving toward more storage for a lower price per kWh. There has been a lot of publicity and excitement over the Tesla Powerwall 2. Other batteries and manufacturers that have been in the race for years are innovating and advancing.  The battery age is here. They are the future of resiliency and staying powered. Will you power up and stay charged?

Site by Molly A. Seltzer

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