Virtual Power Plants — How Tomorrow's Power's Produced
There is a turnover taking place in the international energy market. This extends not only to sources of generation — renewables v. coal and hydrocarbons — but to the technology and very methods of delivery as well. That fact is most arrestingly apparent in the rapid rising of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs).
In South Australia, clean tech titan Tesla has already completed phase 1 of the plan to establish a 250MW VPP consisting of 5kW coupled Powerwall 2 arrays for 50,00 low-income homes. Typically Tesla, it will on completion immediately be the biggest of any such network in the world. The first phase was to install 100 homes. It was an incontestable success. At the minute the second stage is underway: up-scaling the project to 1,000 Public Housing properties. The third and final phase, due to a change of local government after the election in March this year, will have to be financed privately.
They are not alone. Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), SA Power Networks (SAPN) and Simply Energy are also delivering a VPP trial in the same State. And German battery manufacturer sonnen has had, since entering Australian market, the aim of establishing here a VPP à la their peer-to-peer network in Wildpoldspried DE.
How, one might reasonably ask, does all this work really?
A VPP connects into a network disparate homes and businesses generating and storing clean energy. The stored generation can be used, night or day, by the household or other neighbours. The homeowner whose battery it is, obviously benefits before all. The excess can then be sent or sold to the grid by them and redistributed to other houses or places of business.
On certain models the cumulative power stored by batteries in the VPP can be called on at a moment's notice to discharge a sizable amount of energy to the grid. This is to help handle emergencies and outages. A VPP capable of a combined output of 300mWhs, as an example, could keep lights on and appliances running in 120,000 homes for up to an hour. Otherwise its primary purpose is to regulate frequency fluctuation and preserve a healthy pulse for the grid.
A complex of such VPPs and big batteries on the order of the Hornsdale Power Reserve are together the probable replacements of baseload coal generators for future. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts Australia will become one of the two most decentralised countries in the entire wold in the coming 3 decades — 44% of electricity nationally to come from residential PV and behind-the-meter batteries forming VPPs. Wind and hydro to pick up the lion's share of the difference.
What all this amounts to is more jobs, less pollution, cheaper electricity for consumer and communities.