Image via 350.org flickr
Con Edison announced Monday that the utility company will offer solar panels and batteries to 300 Brooklyn and Queens homes as part of a plan to create a virtual power plant for the city’s power grid, as the company outlines in a “Clean Virtual Power Plant” implementation plan (pdf). Quartz reports that Con Ed, partnered with solar-panel manufacturer Sunpower and energy storage company SunVerge, plans to use these “grid assets” as backup power and as a source of electricity and balancing services for the grid.
Residential Con Ed customers will be able to lease the solar and lithium-ion battery systems from the power company for a small fee that will appear on their bill. There is currently no net metering method in place for the homeowners to sell power back to the grid as some individual solar panel users do, though ConEd says that if the project is successful it will allow suppliers/aggregators of solar rooftop and battery systems to sell to the grid.
The vast majority of solar installations are in networks that peak after 5PM. The result is a currently non-optimized opportunity to maximize the potential of distributed solar as an asset for the transmission and distribution systems. The map above shows Con Edison solar (PV) installations in day vs. night peaking networks. (ConEd)
The success of the plan hinges on the ability to create a single power source from the distributed solar sources using sophisticated software that manages the flow of electrons into the grid. According to Sunverge’s Sarah Singleton, this cloud-based software talks directly to the utility so electrons can be managed in near-real time, The plan is part of the power company’s imperative to meet a growing demand for electricity. The $15 million pilot is part of the city’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which is tasked with finding ways to turn these kinds of distributed renewables into one energy source to make generation more even.
Similar projects are reportedly in progress by Texas-based Austin, Southern California Edison and Vermont-based Green Mountain Power. New Yorkers are already ahead of the game on this issue: More residents installed solar panels in 2014 than in all previous years combined, adding up to more than 3,000 Con Ed customers with 80 megawatts of energy capacity.
- New ‘Solar Canopy’ Can Be Installed Atop Any NYC Building to Provide Solar Power
- This 1970s East Village Windmill Was Decades Ahead of Its Time
- Keep Your Apartment Cool and Cut Your Energy Bill This Summer With These Products and Tips