Autogrid’s Japan project could be world’s largest virtual power plant

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Dive Brief:

  • AutoGrid will partner with Japanese energy services and trading company ENERES Co. to create what the company says could be the largest virtual power plant (VPP) in the world by number of connected assets.
  • Using AutoGrid’s control and customer engagement software to aggregate and dispatch energy from demand response and distributed energy resources, the project expects to add more than 10,000 assets to the VPP between 2020 and 2021, “with rapid scaling in subsequent years.”
  • The VPP will initially focus on aggregating energy storage, but ultimately will include a broad range of behind-the-meter resources. Recent Enbala research shows utilities are working to aggregate control of more resources, developing more complex Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS).

Dive Insight:

The AutoGrid-ENERES VPP will launch with only batteries aggregated into the system, but will later include an array of resources, including distributed solar, combined heat and power, smart thermostats and electric vehicles.

The plan is for ENERES to offer the combined DERs into a dispatchable virtual resource to participate in Japanese wholesale energy and capacity markets.

Driven by declining solar and storage costs, distributed resources and demand response are key to daily operations, ENERES President Masahiro Kobayashi said in a statement.

That’s mirrored in Enbala’s survey of more than 100 utility participants at the DistribuTECH conference in New Orleans this year and a report it commissioned from Navigant, which concluded approximately 25% of respondents have a VPP or DERMS in place to control and manage distributed resources.

Today, they’re mostly used for automated demand response and to integrate efficiency, but battery storage, customer generation and EVs are all becoming more common.

VPP/Derms chart

Credit: Source: Enbala

As electric vehicle adoption grows, Navigant says utilities will have options for how they are leveraged.

They are “ideally suited for frequency regulation, a major VPP use case,” according to the report. But they can also provide reactive power and voltage balancing, “services that are more aligned with DERMS deployments by utilities.”

EVs’ ability to act as last resort stationary storage services and possible demand response resources give them additional value, the firm noted.

But EVs are also “a conundrum for utilities,” according to Navigant Associate Director Peter Asmus. “If not managed intelligently, [plug-in] EVs can pose a threat to overall grid reliability.”

The firm’s research shows that the market for plug-in EVs grew by approximately 70% between 2017 and 2018.

They “represent mobile loads equivalent to an entire home,” Asmus wrote. “The size of these loads, and their capacity to suddenly appear and disappear, is a phenomenon giving grid operators heartburn.”

Source: Utility Dive.

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