Solar, energy storage and energy management system provider SunPower announced it has partnered with OhmConnect to offer its customers the opportunity to participate in virtual power plant (VPP) programs.
Homeowners in select California markets that have the mySunPower app can earn rewards for managing electricity use, particularly during times of peak electricity demand on the grid, when utility bill rates are the highest. The service helps balance the electricity grid while offering solar and energy storage customers an opportunity to derive value from their system.
Owners of a SunVault battery are able to manage their stored electricity with OhmConnect, which tracks prices and demand in real time, helping customers reduce energy use at these peak times. Once enrolled, the SunVault system is set to automatically dispatch power from the homeowner’s battery during times of peak grid demand, while retaining a fixed amount of energy to meet their home’s energy needs.
“With the rise of virtual power plants, it is much easier for residential customers to get rewarded for helping us make the grid more resilient,” said Cisco Devries, CEO, OhmConnect. “With our SunPower partnership, OhmConnect can expand the ecosystem of homes that leverage the energy they generate to help stabilize the increasingly vulnerable grid.”
The app sends real-time push notifications before, during, and after the battery is leveraged, with the option to opt out or adjust battery backup reserve levels at any point. The app allows homeowners to manage their VPP activity, tracking battery reserves, discharge history and earnings.
“VPPs are primed to go mainstream as battery storage becomes more accessible, energy prices continue to soar and the grid is continuously overtaxed by fires, heatwaves, and even rain,” said Ellen Kinney, vice president of digital at SunPower. “Removing manual steps and complex barriers for participation will be the key to helping virtual power plants reach their true potential and create a more resilient grid powered by the sun.”
OhmConnect is a no-cost service available to residential customers of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) utilities. California residents can enroll through the mySunPower app, available to download on Apple App Store or Google Play. The companies stated plans to expand to other markets this summer.
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has focused on VPPS, as the availability of debt financing for unfamiliar technologies has been a bottleneck for adoption.
“A VPP is a virtual aggregation of distributed energy resources (DERs) like PV, energy storage, EV chargers and demand-responsive devices (such as water heaters, thermostats, and appliances),” said Jigar Shah, director, U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office. “VPPs do more than provide decarbonization and grid services – they increasingly give grid operators a large-scale and utility-grade alternative to new generation and system buildout through automated efficiency, capacity support, and non-wire alternatives.”
The LPO recently awarded a $3 billion conditional loan for Sunnova to offer loans to low- to moderate-income customers nationwide for VPP services.
“By deploying grid assets more efficiently, an aggregation of distributed resources lowers the cost of power for everybody, especially VPP participants,” he said.
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With the exception of the three-year Tesla trial program, media about VPPs in California has been remarkably free of information vital to adoption: compensation rates to homeowners. After enrollment of enthusiasts, shrewd battery owners are going to need detailed compensation data not provided in press releases. Watch for an analysis tool for homeowners that aggregates CPUC load management allowances, CAISO market data, battery cycle costs by chemistry, and VPP offerings by battery vendor.
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