ICAST Experts Weigh In: What Virtual Power Plants Can Mean for Multifamily

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Nick Grahf | Demand-Side Management Program Manager

Mr. Grahf furthers ICAST’s mission to drive economic, environmental, and social change by designing and implementing demand-side management programs.

ICAST supported a large-scale virtual power plant (VPP) development at the Soleil Lofts property through its implemented Rocky Mountain Power Wattsmart Multifamily Program. These net-zero apartments utilize clean energy and are equipped with 5.3 megawatts of solar and 12.6 megawatts of state-of-the-art battery storage; they are also the country’s largest residential VPP. Multifamily properties with distributed energy resources (DERs) offer an opportunity to partner with customers to achieve a grid reliability alternative that’s green and often cheaper for ratepayers than traditional grid investments.

A VPP is a network of decentralized energy management systems that include generating units, flexible power consumers, and storage systems. VPPs can take different forms, leveraging distributed energy resources (DERs) to reduce peak demand. This offers grid operators energy flexibility to address supply variability – fluctuations in the generation of renewables can be balanced by ramping up and down power generation and power consumption of controllable units. By aggregating the power of several units, a VPP can deliver the same service and subsequently trade on the same markets as sizeable central power plants or industrial consumers.

According to RMI, “coordinating DERs by way of VPPS could reduce energy demand in the U.S. by some 200 GW by 2050,” as well as address current challenges such as maintaining the reliability of the electric grid and energy affordability. VPPs will prove to be a cost-effective alternative to grid infrastructure upgrades, substation development, and peaker plant needs. RMI launched the VPP Partnership (VP3) with numerous organizations in which the coalition will focus on educating industry stakeholders and policymakers about the benefits of and best practices for operating VPPs. Utilizing VPPs most efficiently can help multifamily real estate catch up to single-family homes that have already started adopting renewables like solar energy, batteries, and solar storage.

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