Ethan Carlson

Prototype Engineer - Entrepreneur - Experience Designer

VCharge

www.vcharge-energy.com
Lead Implementation Engineer

What

VCharge is a "smart grid" startup deploying technology that enables the electric grid to be reactive to supply-side volatility introduced by ever-greater penetration of renewable energy. VCharge produces sensing and control hardware as well as Virtual Power Plant software to operate its grid asset.

Why

The current electrical grid is unable to support significant penetration of renewables without introducing risk of grid frequency volatility. By allowing electrical loads with embedded storage to make real-time electricity purchasing decisions based on grid conditions, the grid can function more intelligently, with less risk of failure, and with more renewable energy production.

My Work

I was hired as a Field Engineer to diagnose and troubleshoot hardware issues with the grid assets in Pennsylvania and Maine. However, within a year VCharge asked me to design new hardware to meet the developing needs to the company. I launched one product (the VCharge Control & Metering Module, or VCMM) that was largely based on the existing product line, but allowed for the switching of much larger loads (10 kW). Starting in 2014 I took on a new title, Lead Implementation Engineer, and two new major responsibilities:

The Dynamo

The existing VCharge product line had been designed specifically to control thermal storage heaters, but there were many other loads with embedded storage that could have made for an attractive grid asset. The Dynamo was a piece of sensing and switching hardware that was meant to interact with arbitrary types of loads. I lead the testing, electrical, and hardware design of this product.

Orkney Island Pilot

While the unit economics of VCharge's business model were good in the USA, the electric grid in the UK had even more renewables penetration and more grid instability. On the islands of northern Scotland this problem is exacerbated by the large wind resource and low interconnectivity to to core grid infrastructure. I led the implementation of a pilot project in the Orkney Islands that was a proof of concept for future work in the UK.

Westminster Flats Pilot

The largest market opportunity for VCharge in the UK was to work with National Grid, and the highest profit project would take place in London. In 2015 I began the implementation of a project to convert the heating system of an apartment building in Westminster city, London to become a reactive grid asset.