San Diego Gas & Electric will pilot a “virtual power plant” in the East County community of Shelter Valley — intended to reduce energy demand and put electricity back on the grid as the region enters a heat wave and the power grid becomes strained, it was announced Monday.
The virtual power plant is a cleantech innovation that uses customer- owned smart thermostats, rooftop solar, energy storage and other connected resources such as water pumps to adjust power usage. It uses software to “aggregate and coordinate the functions of a collection of small-scale, decentralized resources located at customers’ homes and businesses to meet grid needs,” an SDG&E statement read.
“The beauty of a virtual power plant is it can leverage existing resources to provide significant grid reliability benefits — with zero incremental emissions,” said SDG&E Chief Commercial Officer Miguel Romero. “When hundreds or thousands of businesses or homes are connected to a VPP and their resources are flexibly managed to charge or discharge electrons, they can help keep the lights on during hot summer days.”
Software programs run VPPs in concert with grid operations to dispatch communications signals to devices in the VPP network to either power down or discharge electricity from existing resources back to the grid. This month, SDG&E used its pilot virtual power plant three times during peak power demand periods.
According to the utility company, its VPP pilot differs from others due to the sheer range of devices it incorporates. It “involves multiple brands and types of devices including smart thermostats, well water controllers and battery energy storage systems,” a company statement reads.
Participants in the pilot include single-family homes with existing rooftop solar and the Shelter Valley Community Center, which serves as a resource center for the community during emergencies. The center received free installation of two batteries onsite.
“We can use this equipment to maintain a place for people if the power goes off and keep the center cool and hope we can provide food if needed for our community residents,” Shelter Valley Community Center Board President Steve Bassett said.
According to SDG&E, when VPP participants receive a message about the potential for their devices to be turned off or discharge electricity to support the grid, they can opt out for certain devices. So far, the opt-out rate has been very low.
The pilot first came online last December and will run through December 2023.
— City News Service
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)