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Watt’s Happening?

by Don Pettit
for Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative ph 250-782-3882

Building a virtual power plant

Here two Hudson’s Hope highschool students are equipped with smart battery systems will create vast
helping to install a solar array on the roof of the “virtual” power plants that will make the grid more
Bullhead Mountain Curling Club. Interconnecting reliable and efficient while reducing electrical costs for
networks of roof-top solar arrays like this one but millions.

n South Australia, 50,000 by a solar array, but link with other several of their aging coal plants
homes will receive free solar solar/battery systems scattered have closed, and gas drilling is
panels and Tesla batteries over vast areas of the grid, creating, either facing restrictions or most
over the next four years in a in essence, a giant, interconnected of the gas is slated for export.
groundbreaking plan to create the power plant. So Australia is turning to
world’s largest virtual power plant. renewables like solar and wind,
Virtual power plant? WORRIED which now supply 14% of their
This idea has been power. South Australia is already
growing rapidly over the last few South Australia is worried. In home to the world’s largest battery
years, driven by “smart” battery 2016 a vast “unprecedented” system (Tesla again) that supplies
technology developed by Tesla storm caused a statewide blackout power to 30,000 homes. Now
(among others). Smart batteries that has sent them scrambling for a they’re taking it to the next level.
not only store the energy produced more reliable energy source. Also, “We will use people’s
homes as a way to generate energy for the South more intermittent, let’s be generous and multiply that
Australian grid,” said Premier Jay Weatherill, “with by 4, for a total of about 480,000 roof tops arrays.
participating households benefitting with significant (sounds like a lot, and it is, but lets recall that Japan
savings in their energy bills.” put up a million solar roofs in the last two years,
The trial phase will begin with 1,100 public Australia already has three million, Europe a million,
housing properties, each supplied with a 5 kW solar the US is expected to hit a million this year, and
system and Tesla battery. Interconnected via the China? Zillions).
existing grid, the solar/battery systems will share Assuming economies of vast scale, each solar/
both power and storage while exporting excess power battery system would cost about $20,000 installed.
to the grid, becoming a net generator: a vast, reliable Total cost? $9.6 billion. Hmmm, about the same cost
and resilient “virtual” power plant. as Site C!
The project is being
funded by a loan from their
taxpayer renewable energy
“We will use people’s BIG BENEFITS
Benefits besides the clean
fund, and by the sale of excess homes as a way to electricity? Lots.
electricity generated by the 1) Tiny environmental
network, some 250 megawatts of generate energy for footprint, since only existing
solar energy plus 650 megawatt
hours of battery storage.
the South Australian roofs would be used;
2) Half a million BC residents
grid,” said Premier receive a direct and immediate
A VIRTUAL SITE C? financial benefit, reducing their
Jay Weatherill, electrical costs for decades,
South Australia, of course, has
a great solar resource, but the
“with participating plus a valuable solar asset for
their home or business;
idea can work almost anywhere, households 3) The province gets a thriving
because solar energy will work solar industry, employing tens
almost anywhere (look at benefitting with of thousands of electricians,
Germany, a world leader in solar
but not exactly a bright sunny
significant savings in engineers, truckers, roofers,
carpenters, manufacturing
place). their energy bills.” facilities etc. all across the
Just for fun, I have run province, for decades;
some rough numbers (yes, very 4) A decentralized, distributed
rough, but conceptually accurate), energy source that is resilient
to see what we could do if BC built a virtual solar and reliable, hardened against the ravages of climate
power plant instead of destroying another pristine change;
river valley. 5) A decrease in the need for new energy sources,
Bear with me, here come the numbers… since every kilowatt of energy these households
The Site C dam is rated at about 1000 produce is a kilowatt that BC Hydro does not have
megawatts, but with a “power capacity factor” of to create, while excess generation is still available for
60% (BC Hydro figure) it will actually produce about sale and export.
600 megawatts of reliable power averaged over any Truly clean energy is distributed and phased in
given year. as needed, not mega-project boom-bust centralized.
How many 5kW roof-top solar arrays would Driven by necessity and basic economics, virtual
we need to make this much power? About 120,000 to power plants will soon become the norm where there
reach that peak of 600 megawatts, but since solar is is the political will and wisdom to implement them.