What is a virtual solar power plant?

renewable energy panel

A virtual solar power plant (known as a solar VPP) is a way of combining renewable energy resources to give electricity back to the grid. A solar VPP provides reliable power, alongside other renewable sources of energy. They are becoming an increasingly popular alternative power source to the large fossil fuel plants that have traditionally supplied all the power to the electrical grid. It allows flexibility with the supply and demand of electricity to ensure power is supplied in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

Virtual power plant meaning

 Essentially, a virtual solar power plant is a cloud based network made up of renewable energy sources. VPP’s tend to be found in Australia, the US and Europe most commonly. They usually include a collective of both homes and commercial buildings, using solar and battery energy supplies, working together as a single power plant. They can enhance power generation as a solar VPP uses a combination of resources together. The energy it gathers can then be collated from each of the different sources and then dispatched onto the grid when it is needed. As it uses so many different sources, a solar VPP can often be more powerful than a traditional power station.

What does a virtual power plant do?

A solar VPP is designed to reduce the need to rely on non-renewable energy from the grid. It distributes the power more evenly – assessing when the contributing sources are at a peak load period. It’s an effective way to distribute power as it can be controlled from a central control room – echoing the way a traditional power plant works. As a virtual power plant uses a combination of resources, they can be used to replace existing power plants.

How does a solar VPP work?

A solar VPP works by using small amounts of energy from several sources and combining them together to create a larger energy source which is then used to support the grid. It works in the following way:

  1. Energy is collected from the reserves of the homes and buildings connected to the VPP. Each source is known as a micro generator.
  2. Using a remote software system, the VPP co-ordinates and controls the sources to distribute the power that has been generated.
  3. It then provides customers who are low on power with power from the VPP – sharing the excess energy with all of the consumers who need it.
  4. The power is traded to the National Energy Market.
  5. Assets are monitored constantly from a control room to help keep on top of where excess power is being generated which may be used to support other consumers.
  6. It relies on WiFi, secure data connections and scheduling to balance the reserve commands.

While a lot of VPP’s at the moment are small and independent, it’s predicted that VPP’s are going to become even more popular in the coming years and may eventually overtake fossil fuel power plants. As they use real time data they can be much more flexible, adapting and changing to the needs of both consumers and the market – making them a much smarter and efficient way to use energy.

They have tons of benefits – including being more environmentally friendly due to reduced Co2 emissions and more efficient energy management systems overall.  A solar virtual power plant can take a long time to design and implement, plus it can be a complex task to manage and control – this is one of the reasons they haven’t overtaken traditional power plants just yet.

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