Since its discovery, electricity has been the foundation of every single one of our technological advancements. It’s so ubiquitous that we simply call it “power”. The creation, storage, and delivery of electricity hasn’t changed all that much over the past century. That is, until about forty years ago when the prices of clean energy and more personal storage options began to fall. Shortly after that, we began to see virtual power plants come online.
Today, we have seen a pivotal shift towards clean energy solutions – essentially due to the fact that many have become cheaper to produce than fossil fuels. This has driven more interest back into developing and deploying virtual power plants.
Creating Virtual Power Plants for Clean Energy
To get into the idea of virtual power plants, let’s first look into what they are and then why there is so much interest in them. Many people have heard the phrase “virtual power plant” before, but I’m not certain that most know what it is .
A virtual power plant (VPP) is essentially defined as a network of decentralized, medium-scale power generating units. They generally include green energy producing water generators, wind farms, solar parks, and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units, as well as flexible power consumers and storage systems. All of these interconnected units are usually managed through the control area of the VPP but are still independent in operation and ownership.
Interest in these has been on the rise for many years now for multiple reasons. Firstly, clean energy relies on smaller power producing distributed sources like solar and wind to replace large “dirty” sources like coal and shale oil. And of course, the next large draw to creating these is the ability for the owners to buy/sell power into the grid.
These systems, like any other, are by no means perfect. Luckily, we’re beyond the POC phase and have solutions for nearly any issue that may come up. For example, when systems like these are more intricate, things like automatic demand response (ADR) to prevent overloading is required.
These distributed sources rely on load balancing to deliver and store steady power. Load balancing is essential to power systems when it comes to supply and demand and can be achieved to meet peak demand through two methods:
- Increasing the total power supply by building and integrating more power plants into the system. Using renewables has been the proliferating trend under smart grid infrastructure and will continue to grow throughout the next decade.
- Reducing or shifting how the power is consumed in one way or another. Cheaper technologies such as IoT and ADR have been widely adopted to reduce power consumption at both the industry and household levels. They can be aggregated to form a VPP as an alternative power regulator with cheaper cost as opposed to how traditional power plants regulate their power.
With these IoT devices acting as regulators and as a brief example, a neighborhood of solar roofs and home battery banks could be connected in order to ensure that the community had more stable power delivery as a whole – or then the community could sell that electricity to a larger power company and spend the profits on improving the neighborhood. There are many examples in the real world and in development, you can read more about clean energy here: https://www.energy.gov/science-innovation/clean-energy
IoT Enriches Virtual Power Plants and Clean Energy
Now that we have a much more clear idea about how clean energy sources can be distributed to create these VPP systems, we can see that there are many IoT technologies that are made specifically for all of it to work. We can also imagine some new or different ways that IoT can enrich VPP systems and clean energy.
- Gateways can be used as hubs to monitor, process, and upload power-related data and other valuable information in solar power, street light power, and just about any other renewable energy system
- Sensors like this power meter have been deployed to collect power-related data.
- Controllers like WiFi smart sockets help manage appliances and other equipment.
Clean Energy Power Plants Need IoT Innovation
Working as a seamless team to orchestrate and bring to market a project from its inception is not an easy thing to accomplish alone. The reasons it’s not easy are many, but for many of us, we don’t create things because it is easy – we create things to make life better and to solve problems. Since the beginning, TECHDesign has worked to connect ideas to reality by introducing innovators, creators, and IoT visionaries to experienced, qualified, and interested makers and product management teams.
From today on into the future, the way in which we produce, store, deliver, and consume electricity will continue to play one of the largest roles in our quality of life. Using the knowledge of how electricity can be created, stored, and delivered, we can improve and iterate on past experience to create better systems.