How virtual power plants are shaping tomorrow’s energy system

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One significant difference is VPPs’ ability to shape consumers’ energy use in real time. VPPs are able to communicate with distributed energy sources and allow grid operators the ability to control end user demand.

Smart thermostats that are linked to air conditioners can, for example, adjust the temperature of a home and manage how much energy is consumed by those units. These thermostats can precool homes on hot summer days before peak air conditioning hours. Staggering cooling can help prevent sudden demand increases that could overwhelm the grid and lead to outages. Similarly, electric vehicle chargers can adapt to the grid’s requirements by either supplying or utilizing electricity. 

These distributed sources of energy connect to the grid using communication technologies such Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. VPPs, when added in aggregate, can improve overall system resilience. By coordinating hundreds of thousands of devices, VPPs have a meaningful impact on the grid—they shape demand, supply power, and keep the electricity flowing reliably.

How popular are VPPs today?

VPPs were mainly used to control energy consumption by consumers up until recently. Solar and battery technology has improved, so utilities can now use it to supply electricity to the grid at times of need.

The Department of Energy in the United States estimates the VPP capacity to be between 30 and 60 gigawatts. This represents 4% to 8% peak electricity demand in the United States, a small fraction of the overall system. Some states and utility companies have been adding more VPPs quickly to their grids.

Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest utility company, made headlines last year when it The program now includes a subsidized battery program for home batteries. Customers can lease a Tesla at a discounted price or buy one themselves, and receive assistance of up $10,500 if they agree with the utility to share stored energy as required. Vermont Public Utility Commission is the body that regulates utilities in Vermont. You can also check out our website for more information.The program can also provide emergency electricity during outages, according to the program.

Three utility companies in Massachusetts (National Grid, Eversource and Cape Light Compact), have implemented a new system. VPP programThis program rewards customers for allowing utilities to control the home batteries.

Meanwhile, in Colorado efforts are underway to launch the state’s first VPP system. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has urged Xcel Energy to launch a fully functional VPP pilot this summer.

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