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Virtual Power Plants: Why Some of the Biggest Names in Tech and Auto are Teaming Up

The formation of a partnership to set standards and laws for virtual power plants took place yesterday and was spearheaded by prominent figures in the smart home, solar power, and electric car industries.

The project was initially funded by Google Nest and General Motors, and the nonprofit organization RMI that advocates for renewable energy would be in charge of leading it. The new organization is known as the Virtual Power Plant Partnership, or VP3, and among its original members are Ford, the solar energy companies SunPower and Sunrun, an electrical panel manufacturer known as SPAN, and a number of other businesses that deal with energy management.

Virtual power plants, also known as VPPs, are based on the concept that renewable energy sources such as solar panels and electric vehicles may act as emergency power supplies for the grid. VPPs may also consist of fleets of smart thermostats and other appliances that are able to modify the amount of electricity they use in order to lessen the amount of strain placed on the grid.

It is a crucial service that can assist in preventing power outages when there is a shortage of energy. In addition, virtual power plants have the potential to promote the deployment of additional renewable energy sources by improving the management of the ebb and flow of solar and wind energy, which varies depending on the time of day and the weather.

When people arrive home from work in the late afternoon or early evening, the demand for electricity typically reaches its highest point, which also happens to be the time of day when solar power production is at its lowest. During times of high demand, individuals may turn their air conditioners or heaters up to their maximum setting if the weather is particularly severe. This can make the problem of meeting demand even more difficult.

The concept behind this is that a virtual power plant that is comprised of a fleet of electric vehicles that are in communication with the grid would have the ability to program charging during a time of day when there is a greater abundance of renewable energy. Alternately, if the grid does not have sufficient power available to satisfy demand peaks, electric vehicle batteries could collectively send enough energy to the grid to make up for the deficit. These VPPs have the potential to take the place of more polluting gas-powered "peaker plants," which are normally activated when there is a surge in demand for electricity.

The concept of virtual power plants is still in its infancy. As a result, they could benefit from the application of some standardized procedures, which would enable them to roll out on a larger scale. That is the challenge that VP3 intends to overcome. The group has stated that it will make research into VPPs a top priority and will advocate for laws that can facilitate the growth of VPPs. In addition to that, it intends to build what it refers to as "industry-wide best practices, standards, and roadmaps" for virtual power plants.

Mark Dyson, RMI's managing director for carbon-free electricity, stated in a press release that "the next 12 to 24 months are critical for policy and program development to seize the potential offered by virtual power plants," and that "VP3 is here to ensure that the energy transition doesn't miss a beat." VP3 is here to ensure that the energy transition doesn't miss a beat. The Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed by Congress the previous year, is expected to dramatically increase the number of people purchasing electric vehicles and adopting renewable energy sources.

The early versions of virtual power plants were put to the test in California during the summer of 2013, when heat waves came dangerously close to causing widespread rolling power disruptions. Because of some assistance from a Tesla virtual power plant and some Google Nest smart thermostats, the state was able to narrowly avoid that catastrophe. Other virtual power plants belonging to Tesla can be found in Texas, Japan, and Australia. However, it is not the only company working on the development of VPPs. The recently established GM Energy division is also collaborating with SunPower and the California utility PG&E on the development of virtual power plants.

As a result of climate change, there have been more intense heatwaves, wildfires, and storms in the United States during the past decade. This has led to an increase in the number of power outages. Even while the grid is likely going to experience greater growing pains as it makes the shift to clean energy, it is the only practical solution to that increased risk. Clean energy. Because of this, coordinated initiatives like virtual power plants — and cooperation across industries, such as what we're seeing with VP3 — are an important step toward designing a world that is more sustainable and resilient.

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