Virtual Power Plants Becoming Reality
By Jeff Stark
One of the core values and aspirations of the global campaign toward renewable energy is moving closer to reality. The technology is known as "virtual power plants" (VPP) aims to capitalize on the success of the concept of "distributed generation" in the electrical utility industry. The idea is that relatively small-scale residential solar photovoltaic, wind and other renewable energy installations can be networked. The process is similar to computer networks, which unite virtually any number of computers in a network available to all. The VPP collects, conditions, produces and markets renewable energy generated as a replacement power source to power plants that burn carbon-based fuels to generate energy. And, unlike power producers in the large power plant to electrical grid technology, the VPP is open to the smallest of producers which, when networked with many others, can deliver electrical power on a scale that is equivalent to traditional power plants.
Not surprisingly, one of the leaders of the VPP movement is the Da Vinci of our time -- Elon Musk. The developer of the ground-breaking Tesla EV, the space pioneer who has put reusable spacecraft engines into commercial service, the creator of residential scale renewable energy storage systems is now busy creating electrical power systems that make owners of solar photovoltaic and wind systems power providers to electrical utilities.
In the case of the Musk project in Australia the benefits to Australians will also include lower priced electricity and the assurance that those low prices will be available over time since the VPP is not subject to the price swings that fossil fuels create.
According to an article in the online publication Elektra, Musk is moving forward with plans to build out industrial scale virtual power plants in, among other places, Australia. The article states: "Tesla is launching phase 3 of its massive virtual power plant in South Australia and has confirmed that soon almost 4,000 homes with Powerwalls, the Tesla battery system that stores and regulates the output from renewable systems, will be networked and producing power to the grid systems managed by electrical utilities. It is then available, on demand, when needed by the utilities. When not sending its power to the VPP these myriad of small systems is happily storing the excess power and is available when needed.
WHAT WE CAN DO
All of this is good news. The VPP movement involves millions of stakeholders, entrepreneurs, and players in the electrical power game. It seems clear that VPPs will be a major element in the global movement toward a renewable, carbon-free future. The only question may be "How do we support this movement, make it a part of our individual and collective futures and make sure the future starts now."
To find out how to become involved in this breakthrough policy and technology we can begin our search with the resources below.
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