4 Things You Should Know About Virtual Power Plants

Virtual power plants (VPP) are a dynamic and rapidly developing technology that is poised to make a significant impact on the future of electricity generation, distribution, and consumption.

A VPP is an aggregation of distributed energy resources such as combined heat and power (CHP), solar photovoltaic (PV), or battery storage devices connected to the grid by smart inverters.

The goal of such systems is twofold: firstly, they enable consumers to be more independent from their local utility; secondly, they provide utilities with the ability to provide reliable supply using intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar PV.  Without further ado, here are things you should know about virtual power plants.

It’s a Sustainable Source Of Energy

VPPs are a promising solution to the problem of an increasingly unstable demand for electricity. VPPs use a variety of renewable energy technologies, such as solar PV and wind turbines, in order to produce clean power from sources that fluctuate with weather conditions.

In favorable weather conditions when there is a surplus resource, the power from these distributed devices is fed back into the grid.  On days where there is not enough sunlight or wind, the power that would have been produced by these devices can be supplemented with power from other sources throughout the grid.

If done correctly, VPPs could reduce the need for backup generation equipment and fossil-fueled units (data centers) to supply electricity when power production falls short of demand. However, when the weather does not favor renewables, for example, there is no wind or sun, energy demands are met by switching to an on-site generator.

This way, VPPs are able to offer a stable power supply even in unpredictable conditions.

It Helps Stabilize Electricity Grid

VPPs use batteries or other energy storage technology to store excess power when it is available and release this power when needed. Thanks to the synchronized interactions of distributed generation resources with increasingly advanced control systems, VPPs are able to stabilize the grid network in several ways:

Reduce Grid Congestion – Instead of all generators running at once when demand peaks, VPPs allow for the production of power to be spread out throughout the day.

Increased Reliability – Microgrids can maintain power with or without connection to the larger grid, so they are unaffected by grid failures such as natural disasters.

Balance Production And Demand – Since it uses renewable sources of energy, VPPs are able to produce power at a constant rate regardless of demand.

Increase Grid Resilience – In the event of grid failure, VPPs have enough capacity in their storage units to run autonomously through microgrids until the main supply is restored. This means that during an outage these units can temporarily generate enough power to meet the demand.

There’s a Central Control System

VPPs rely on a central control system (CCS) to control the interaction of multiple generation and storage devices.

The VPP software is essentially a computer program that can monitor and manage power flows from all sources across the grid network, then instruct individual generators and storage units to meet real-time demand. The increasing interconnectedness of these technologies requires an increased reliance on CCSs, which would allow for the expanded use of VPPs.

Fewer Blackouts And More Solar Power

One of the biggest advantages of the use of VPPs is that they might be able to reduce blackouts and power outages. The ability to produce power even in less than desirable weather conditions would increase the reliability of energy consumption.

In developing countries, where electricity blackouts are common, VPPs could be a very effective way to bring access to clean energy. In addition, VPPs could contribute to an increase in solar photovoltaic panels (PVs) on residential and business rooftops.

Virtual power plants are a potential solution to the problem of an overloaded conventional power grid,  as they utilize a combination of small “behind the meter” sources of electricity to provide energy security and control capabilities.

By Staff Writer.