COPENHAGEN – With power generation shifting from centralized fossil fuelled generation towards decentralized renewable generation, there is an emerging need for energy flexibility on the grid. Virtual Power Plants (VPP’s) can combine and manage all solar and wind sources along with energy storage and electric vehicles, with a single control system, acting as a cloud-based power plant, thus enhancing flexibility and grid reliability.
The benefits of Virtual Power Plants will be explained by keynote speaker, Lior Handelsman, SolardEdge’s founder and VP of Marketing and Product Strategy during the first Energy Flexibility Forum (EFF) in Copenhagen on the 11th and 12th of June. During the two-day conference and exhibition, organised by Solarplaza, major stakeholders and experts from various countries will raise awareness and explore solutions for the sustainable energy transition.
The growth of intermittent wind and solar generation and electrification of energy demand will lead to an increasing need for solutions to allow grid flexibility. Virtual Power Plants are an energy management concept that can interweave several renewable energy sources, pulling power from all solar and wind sources, batteries and EVs, charging or discharging when needed. This requires sophisticated management platforms to provide real-time, aggregated control of the available energy resources to meet the ever-changing supply needs.
"Virtual Power Plants make solar and distributed energy sources and loads more predictable and dependable for utilities, aligning the interest between utilities and PV owners."
According to Handelsman VPP’s can help speed up the energy transition. ,,The main task of electric utilities is to balance supply and demand,” he says. ,,Without bulk storage the electricity demand must be met by energy generation in real time. For instance, if there is a sudden peak in energy demand, then energy generation must instantaneously ramp up, and conversely, must be immediately lowered if there is a dip in demand. The inherent unpredictability and intermittency of the production of renewables makes this balancing act challenging for utilities, which is the reason that electric utilities are typically opposed to high penetration of solar into the grid. Virtual Power Plants make solar and distributed energy sources and loads more predictable and dependable for utilities, aligning the interest between utilities and PV owners. This converts solar into an opportunity, not a risk for utilities.”
For the European Union to be fully powered by renewable energy, every house should have PV and battery storage. In a given year, 500 million people in the EU consume around 3,000 TWh, which means the average daily demand is 8.2 TWh. The base load of this would be about 4.1 TWh in batteries which would take 410 million 10kWh batteries. With 220 million households in the EU, that would mean this could be achieved if every household has two 10kWh batteries powered by PV, according to SolarEdge’s calculations.
According to Handelsman this is no science fiction. ,,The comparison to the computer is an excellent parallel. In 1943, Thomas Watson, President of IBM, famously said that he thought that there was a total world market for about 5 computers, but today there are about that many in each household,” he says. ,,With the continual reduction in both the PV and battery prices and in turn the overall system price, we believe that in the foreseeable future, every house will have PV and battery storage.”
"With the continual reduction in both the PV and battery prices and in turn the overall system price, we believe that in the foreseeable future, every house will have PV and battery storage."
He thinks home owners will be easily convinced to install home batteries and join a VPP. Handelsman: ,,There are different programs that are currently being implemented. Some are based on Bring Your Own Battery (BYOB), while others are based on utilities subsidizing systems. These frameworks potentially offer system owners additional revenue from their PV and storage system or can lower their cost.
Although a number of advancements are needed throughout the energy industry to move to a fully distributed network, Handelsman sees a lot of benefits from VPP’s. ,,They offer added value throughout the entire value chain. Utilities can leverage distributed PV systems to more efficiently meet demand and increase grid stability, while energy retailers get increased protection from price peaks. In addition, owners of large solar fleets can manage their PV and storage in the cloud,” he says.
SolarEdge is offering several software and management solutions to make VPP’s work.
,,Our VPP solution includes near real-time aggregative control and data reporting, at a scale that has not been available in the market yet, enabling the pooling of distributed energy resources, such as PV, storage, and EV charging systems in the cloud,” says Handelsman. ,,To deploy this solution, SolarEdge developed sophisticated algorithms for big data management and leveraged predictive analytics for solar generation and load forecasting.”