The growth of renewable energy has enabled private homeowners to act as their own power providers independent of the grid. Virtual power plants are completing the role reversal by turning homeowners into a source of power for the grid.
In Oregon, the state’s largest utility is giving the concept a try. On July 1, Portland General Electric (PGE) announced that it received approval from regulators to link 525 homes into a network of supply.
All of the homes contain their own solar-storage systems. By linking them into a controllable “fleet,” the utility will have a unique, single source of power that can be used instead of other forms of generation.
Each of the home batteries is capable of storing 12 to 16 kilowatts of energy. As a connected resource, collectively they will be able to contribute up to 4 megawatts of electricity onto the grid.
The five-year pilot will study how to optimize the use of the batteries for grid management. The program will have the additional objective of ensuring customers get what they want out of participating.
The program will allow PGE to test new smart-grid control devices across its distribution system. They are expected to allow a more effective two-way exchange between utility and pilot participants. They will also enable the utility to more actively manage the way that electricity is distributed across its system.
The program is being made available to three groups of customers. Households that already have a battery can join. They are eligible for a monthly bill credit of between $20 and $40 depending on the type of battery they use.
People living in PGE’s Smart Grid Test Beds, three neighborhoods used for demonstrating new grid tools, can get more compensation for the value of clustering storage in one part of the grid.
Also, low- and moderate-income families that qualify for Oregon’s Solar Within Reach program can receive a $5,000 rebate to buy a battery and participate. They also earn the monthly credit.
The program is part of PGE’s larger energy storage plans.