Three Virtual Power Plant Day in 15 Days

This is the third PGE Virtual Power plant day in 15 days. I am in the VPP program in Northern California. This is the second day in a row with a VPP and the third since the first 15 days ago. Tesla set up the software to allow people with stationary storage power walls and solar power to get paid $2 per kilowatt hour from the utility. The utility in my case is Pacific Gas and Electric. If there were three events every 15 days for 365 days then there would be 61 events in a year. There will likely be more events in the summer with extreme heat and less frequent events in the winter. Each event is causing PGE to pay each one of nearly 3000 participants about $50-70 each. If there are 40 events in a year, then people in the program will make about $2000-3000. The VPP payments will almost be as much as savings on the electric bill. Electric bill savings are about $3000-4000 per year. There is also another $500 per year from net metering. Net metering is when extra solar power runs onto the grid and reverses the meter in a trickle of power. The total earnings with solar and power walls and in a VPP look on track to be $6000 per year. This pays back solar panel and battery costs after purchase credits in about 5 years.

Here is where I had data on the second VPP event yesterday. The combined power from 2800-3000 homes provides a peak of 18-20 Megawatts of power and about 50 MWh of power during peak days when there is not enough “normal power” supply relative to demand.

If PGE uses distributed consumer Power Walls then they could stop using natural gas emergency and peaker plants. Even frequent VPP usage at about $100,000 per event could be economical for peaker plants that are used less than 1% of the time.

We will see how often the VPP is used for an entire year. The heat wave is showing that PGE is not prepared with right amount of power for normal operations.

PGE has also had about 6 power outages in my area this year. The power wall batteries and solar help me avoid those inconveniences and lack of reliability.

9 thoughts on “Three Virtual Power Plant Day in 15 Days”

  1. But the reason why so many people have batteries in their house is because future CA shoved its power grid in to the turnstile.

    Point being that we have this miraculous battery system in place because the grid was broken in the first place and people went out and dropped $10k on in home backup batteries.

    Maybe don’t break the grid in the first place? Put the batteries in cars where they have a positive ROI every day instead of 15 days a year?

  2. What if Tesla allowed V2G as part of the VPP? Vehicle owners might set any limitations that want in an app, but could potentially make much more with a minimal additional investment beyond what they might be spending already on a BEV. The system could scale much faster.

    Originally Tesla’s concern seemed to be wasting battery cycling that was constrained. Current Tesla vehicle packs seem able to accommodate this sort of extra duty easily.

  3. If the 425k EVs in California exported 10kW each, it would be 4.25 GW.

    There are plenty of barriers and constraints. Maybe the realistic capacity is closer to 1 GW.

    For comparison, California is planning two new HVDC lines across San Jose. They will be 1GW combined capacity, and cost $1B combined.

    By the time these lines are built, there will probably be 10GW+ of V2G capacity sitting around in driveways.

  4. Very interesting, in Belgium currently we have to pay only what we use once a year ( the net difference with production and consumption) , in the future this system will be removed and basically we will sell very cheap our summer production and buy very expensive the winter electricity . With the virtual plant we may sell at better price and compensate the buy during winter. Hope we get that soon in Belgium.

  5. Now this is real progress. That hazy promise of distributed power, even if distorted through the stewardship of a huge company like Tesla, is finally a reality.

    In principle, PGE should be winning here as supposedly the fines it would face for the black or brownouts would be higher than the 2 USD per kWh they are paying, but I guess they probably feel like they have egg on their faces. Let’s hope this becomes an example for electricity distributors throughout the world; well, at least throughout the world where Tesla or some competitor can establish a similar virtual power plant…

    • It’s not bad so long as it’s dispatchable by the utility. As opposed to raw solar just flooding into the grid when the sun is out, forcing baseline plants offline.

      What the grid needs in order to be reliable is dispatchable power with high dependability. If the power just shows up when it wants to, you can’t keep the grid stable above a small level of penetration. And if you can’t refuse the power when you don’t need it, you end up idling reliable and economic baseline plants, reducing the cost effectiveness of the entire system.

      So, key to this is that the power is only delivered when the people managing the grid decide they want it, and in those cases WILL be delivered with high reliability. You need the people involved in this to have some incentive to not opt out exactly when the power is most needed.

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