Introduction of the Virtual power plants to California apartment buildings is becoming a new focus for German company Sonnen (battery system vendor) along with its project partner Wasatch Group (real estate). This energy storage company planned to spread the project of Virtual Power plants across the Apartment complexes. Sonnen, along with Wasatch Group, has designed to work on this project that will lead to $130 investment to bring 60-megawatt hours of energy storage. As per the report, around three thousand apartments in California are supposed to link to to the solar panels and batteries, seemingly, these apartments might never be experiencing any power outrage again. This project is highly expected to be completed in the year 2021. In today’s age, where the requirement of power for commercial use is much more than personal use, this step is going to be much more useful for the people out there.
VPPs as an effective medium during demand peaks
This Virtual power plant is usually formed by a set of connected solar panels and batteries. These Virtual Power Plants not only helps to provide backup solar power to the whole community during blackouts but also will lessen the strain on the grid as the Virtual Power Plants are considered to store their energy on-site. Other than this, these VPPs can also be used as an effective medium to provide energy whenever there are demand peaks.
Reliability for California resident
In California, as fire seasons grow (due to the wildfire), people see the smoke outside, and it results into the more chances of power outages, In these type of situations, this Virtual Power Plants project can offer some reliability to California residents.
How it will work
A city which is in the heart of California’s agricultural region, Heron Pointe, is going to be the first apartment complex which will be retrofitted, it will cost $19.7 million. It will feature about 4,800 solar panels and 417 units. It will be capable of generating up to 1.85 megawatts and will be able to store up to 8.3 megawatt energy hours. As per a website, at Heron Pointe, rent for a single
bedroom unit starts at $1,094 that shows the complex as “luxury” apartment. Fresno is still considered to be the most affordable city to rent a home in California as rent for a similar-sized apartment in Los Angeles, or San Francisco can be double. In total, there are seven projects. To figure out the interconnection of these seven projects, developers are working with Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). This idea of an apartment based Virtual Power Plant setup makes solar energy and storage comparably affordable for a lot of people. Now a renter would go through the similar process of renting an apartment as they would have for an apartment that doesn’t have a solar panel. But in the absence of this project, a renter had to spend thousands of dollars on installing their solar panels. Now solar energy comes along with the unit in the same way as a refrigerator.
A new focus
So now onwards it will be possible to provide this kind of clean energy and solar power to the lower and middle-income apartments. By this project, tenants will be getting regenerative as well as optimized backup power. However, expanding this solar capacity to supply tenants is going to be a difficult task. For this VPPs project, this German company Sonnen will be partnering with Wasatch Group (real estate developer). These two companies have already worked together on the same project in Utah, where these two companies (in partnership) build 600 brand new apartments which are connected with solar power and storage systems. This project will result in the storage of close to five times as much solar energy, 60 MWh, as the Utah endeavour.
Impact on electricity bill and its payment
According to Wasatch, this switch to solar energy will help the tenants to save around 10 per cent on their electricity bills. As there are some housing where usually the utilities are included in the rent, in the same way, this Virtual Power Plants’ apartment buildings project will let the residents pay their electricity cost to the landlords instead of paying to the utility company, similar to those housing facilities where utilities are already included in the price of rent. These solar power apartment buildings will bring renewable energy to people who will not be able to afford insulation. In this way, these renewable will help a lot of families with low income (who are facing difficulty to pay their electricity bill) by shrinking their bills. But still, it depends on the landlords whether they want to keep energy saving for themselves or pass it to their tenants. For single-family homes, these Virtual Power Plants’ apartment buildings have become more and more popular. This project will also make the apartments more attractive to tenants as solar and batteries add to its complex value. It is highly expected that these kinds of projects will be developed further in the future.
The US in the race
In Germany (where Sommen got its start) there is so much popularity of residential virtual power plants. In 2018, to provide its power wall batteries & panels to 1,100 public housing properties for free, Australia did a partnership with Tesla. The US is also catching up in the race to build more and more virtual power plants. It is considered that the US will start having more of these types of programs and will compete with those other countries which are going forward.
In 2019, Shell (the fossil fuel company) acquired Sonnen. In April 2020, Shell pledged to lessen greenhouse gas emissions from the product it sells and operations by 2050. Sonnen is known for providing high end on the home battery system that cost more than competing models which are there in the market such as Tesla, Sunrun etc.