From concerts to meetings to chatting with Mom, these days the whole world seems to be going virtual, and the trend isn’t going to let up any time soon. In fact, going virtual has even reached the energy sector, with a growing interest in the idea of virtual power plants (VPP). Solar installers, energy companies and utilities are taking note, and working on ways to create, use and sell VPPs to homeowners.
What is a virtual power plant?
One of the things that power plants do is determine the energy mix for the grid, to protect it from being over-stressed or to allocate resources efficiently. Now that renewable energy sources are coming online, they present new challenges to manging the grid. However, when those renewable power generation sources are combined with batteries, it introduces the ability to work with the power grid to help meet peak demands or even absorb surplus production. What a VPP does is create a network of decentralized, small- and mid-sized power generating facilities from a combination of places—from wind farms and solar fields to homeowners with rooftop solar and other flexible power systems.
When connected, these solar, wind and battery resources create a virtual power plant that work together while remaining independent in operation and ownership.
Benefits of a VPP
The main benefit of a VPP is the flexibility to address peaks in electricity demand, which replicates exactly what their cumbersome land-bound physical power plants accomplish but with less waste and significantly less capital investment. Virtual power plants take control of the issues of distribution bottlenecks, and the cost to make it happen is comparatively low.
VPPs are integrated into the electric grid and can be assembled using assets connected to any part of the grid, so it’s not restricted to any one location or community. VPPs are managed via aggregation software to mimic the control room of a traditional power plant.
Leading the VPP Charge
Sunrun’s BrightBox + grid capabilities are ready to service the emerging grid services market with a solar battery storage option that can create a VPP, delivering clean energy at peak times while offering savings for homeowners.
Tesla Powerwall’s auto-bidder system combines leading edge battery technology for rooftop solar customers for the ability to monetize battery storage. Autobidder technology trades and controls energy use in real time, allowing owners and operators to tailor their energy savings and use to their objectives and according to their risk tolerance. It’s all part of Tesla’s optimization solution, the Autonomous Control software, to further enable virtual power plants.
Sonnen’s VPP takes individual, decentralized battery storage units and turns them into easy-to-control, revenue-generating assets for the grid. As a leader in virtual power plants, Sonnen is enabling communities of the future for more sustainable living options.
Virtual power plants are a new way forward that can keep us all connected to the energy that drives our daily lives, while still offering more independence from fossil fuel energy sources. Technology is at the heart of VPPs, and these are just a few of the companies building software platforms for monitoring and controlling customer-based assets like solar battery storage.