If there’s one thing that has plagued renewable energy sources like solar and wind, its weather conditions. However, virtual power plants may be able to solve this problem one day.
Now I know what your thinking, is he really going to tell me that there is a device that can control the weather? And let me assure you that is not what this is.
A virtual power plant is best thought of as a control hub for multiple power plants. You would have solar, wind, hydro and even traditional fossil fuel plants all connected to one outlet, so to speak.
On top of being connected to the plants, they also have large energy storage devices (aka batteries) that allow them to better control the flow of energy.
How Does This Solve Weather?
To be perfectly clear, it is not going to actually fix bad weather conditions for these types of farms. Instead, it can manage the energy more efficiently and ensure that the excess energy is properly stored and used during these moments.
For example, let’s say there is a virtual power plant connected to 2 solar farms (in reality, this is much more complicated), one on the east and west coasts.
The solar farm on the west coast may be producing less energy on a particular day, while the other solar farm may be producing more than necessary. That energy can be diverted along the grid to reach areas that are lacking.
The more plants that are connected, the more efficient it is.
Are There Any Virtual Power Plants?
Yes, they do in fact exist.
A great example of this can be found on the Scottish Inner Hebrides island of Eigg. The electric grid uses 90-95% of renewable energy and it works great for them.
Of course, more densely populated places like the United States and Europe are also moving in this direction. Although, very slowly.
Renewable Energy Flexibility
On top of distributing the energy better, it also adds much-needed flexibility to renewables as a whole.
The other major problem with renewable energy is that you cannot control the flow of it. For example, let’s say it is a cold winter night and more heat is being used than normal.
This will require more electricity and you can’t turn up the wind or sun to compensate. While a coal plant, on the other hand, could just burn more coal to supply the energy.
This flexibility comes from the storage devices. You could store energy to use during peak hours from renewable sources. Which fixes one of the biggest issues.