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This summer, Con Edison and SunPower Corp. will partner on a $15 million pilot program to offer solar power systems with battery storage to more than 300 New York homeowners.

The aggregation of hundreds of homes with solar power and battery storage will provide the utility with a cost-effective and innovative virtual power plant, providing participating homeowners with a backup system in case of an outage while also supplementing the traditional energy delivery model to improve grid resiliency, reliability and sustainability.

Virtual Power Plant

“Distributed Energy can be more practically integrated into a Smart Grid if it is aggregated through Virtual Power Plants (VPPs). VPPs generate additional value from the flexibility they can offer the grid. They can match load fluctuations through forecasting, advance metering and computerised control, and can perform real-time optimisation of energy resources”, explains our most recent report: The Market for Building Performance Software 2016 to 2020.

With the integration of over 1.8 megawatts of solar power and about 1.8 megawatts, or 4 megawatt hours, of battery storage, this partnership will represent the largest residential distributed energy storage program in the US. The pilot program is part of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, designed to harness and integrate renewables into the state’s power grid.

“The integrated solar and storage approach enhances value to the grid by providing a dispatchable renewable power source that Con Edison can control and rely on in real time”, said Matthew Ketschke, Con Edison’s vice president of Distributed Resource Integration. “We are excited to offer customers high performance SunPower systems for no upfront cost, and a cheaper, greener, simpler alternative to a traditional backup generator”.

Under the program, qualified participants will have leased high-efficiency SunPower solar systems installed on their homes to help reduce the homeowners’ monthly electricity costs. For an additional low monthly payment, participants also will have Sunverge Energy battery systems, owned by Con Edison, installed and connected to their SunPower systems. In the event of an outage, solar power stored in a participant’s battery storage system will be available to power certain essential load appliances in the home.

“Solar plus storage facilitates innovative new approaches for utilities to serve customers, including alternative tariff structures and virtual power plants, and Con Edison is at the forefront of that innovation”, said Sunverge Co-Founder and CEO Ken Munson. “We’re proud to partner with Con Edison and SunPower on this very significant project, providing intelligent storage to help ensure the delivery of reliable renewable power to New York residents even during power outages”.

Using the storage system’s intelligence, Con Edison will be able to link the hundreds of solar-plus-storage systems together into a VPP that can act as a local generation resource to supply power to the grid during peak usage periods. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) integration will provide remote monitoring and control, allowing Con Edison to forecast and optimise the performance and reduce the need for the utility to rely on traditional non-renewable power sources to meet peak demand.

Energy and buildings markets are beginning the tricky process of harmonization as major global firms look to capitalise on opportunities surrounding Smart Grids and Distributed Energy. Our report Smart Buildings Meet the Smart Grid shows that the combined market for Energy Software in Smart Buildings (comprised of Enterprise Energy Management, BECS Supervisory Software and Smart Building to Smart Grid Interface Software) will rise to nearly $10Bn by 2020.

In Germany, utility RWE began a VPP in 2012 that now has around 80 MW of capacity and Hamburg based LichtBlick has long been seen as a pioneer of the VPP system. Restore represents the lead aggregator in Europe as a whole, but they face strong competition with a host of demand response companies in the UK, including EnerNOC, Kiwi Power, Flexitricity and Honeywell. “The market for VPP and aggregation is still nascent, but offers significant growth potential”, our report suggests.

Back across the pond EnerNOC and Viridity Energy have been developing VPP models. However, “this ambitious program with Con Edison represents a significant milestone in US energy delivery, demonstrating that combining solar and energy storage can result in a stronger, more resilient grid while providing end customers the opportunity to save on electricity bills”, said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “Increasingly, SunPower is working with forward-thinking utilities to integrate advanced energy solutions and enable the transition to a more sustainably powered world”.

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