Drawing on a network of residential lithium-ion battery energy storage systems, Rocky Mountain Power, sonnen and Wasatch Group have launched one of the US’ first virtual power plants (VPPs).

Under construction at Soleil Lofts, an all-electric residential community in Herriman, Utah, the VPP incorporates more than 600 individual sonnen ecoLinx batteries with a combined capacity of 12.6 MWh of battery energy storage capacity managed by Rocky Mountain Power, the local utility and subsidiary of PacifiCorp.

Soleil Lofts will be the largest residential battery storage and demand response solution in the US that’s managed by a local utility “for the greater good of the community and the electric system,” according to the project partners . “As the developer of Soleil Lofts, we started with the firm belief we could build a community that was solving the Salt Lake Valley’s serious air quality issues today and in the future. That belief led us to partner with Rocky Mountain Power, sonnen and Auric Energy for the development of an all-electric community utilizing solar and batteries,” said Dell Loy Hansen, CEO of the Wasatch Group

Soleil Lofts: A blueprint for grid-optimized battery storage

The Soleil Lofts’ VPP will provide “a blueprint for the future of grid-optimized battery storage,” sonnen Chairman and CEO added. Residents will begin moving into Soleil Lofts’ apartments this September, according to the project partners. Final building will be completed in December 2020.

“Not only does Soleil Lofts all-electric community help improve air quality along the Wasatch Front in Utah, the project will create a platform for managing batteries for other customers we serve, as well. This partnership enables an innovative solution to provide low-cost utility services, not otherwise possible,” said Rocky Mountain Power CEO Gary Hoogevveen.

Now a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, Sonnen was the first to build a VPP based on residential solar-plus-storage systems in Germany back in 2015. It moved on in 2018 to partner with Mandalay Homes to build the master-planned, 2,900-home Jasper community in Prescott, Arizona, the first of its kind in the US.

“Mandalay and Arizona Eco-Development have partnered to deploy a radical new residential master community design topology including clean energy generation, self-sufficiency and self-consumption via a smart energy storage system in combination with an efficient load profile and a sealed home, all anchored on intelligent grid interaction,” said Blake Richetta, sonnen’s senior vice president and head of sonnen’s US subsidiary.

“This master planned Jasper community represents the single most significant innovation in how new homes can contribute to the decarbonization of our electricity grid. The 2,900 homes in which the sonnenCommunity will be deployed in Prescott Valley represent a true clean energy revolution, setting a new standard in energy efficient communities that will challenge the status-quo associated with the US electricity grid.”

Aggregating distributed solar-plus-storage to form power grids

Sunrun, the largest residential solar energy installer in the country, has been working along the same lines. Early this year, Sunrun established a US power industry milestone when regional transmission organization (RTO) ISO New England (ISO-NE) awarded the California-based solar provider a contract to sell energy at wholesale rates by aggregating electrical power produced by home solar plus storage systems distributed across its service territory.

“This is a breakthrough moment,” said Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich. “Sunrun is able to deliver clean and reliable electricity to customers at a lower cost than traditional central generation and provide this resource to the wholesale capacity market.

“This new energy services model is a win-win for everyone. We’re creating a new, cleaner, more affordable and resilient electricity system — powered by local home solar and batteries — for the benefit of all New Englanders. Clean, home solar energy improves the health of our communities and planet, is an efficient use of existing infrastructure, and home batteries provide households with the peace of mind of backup power during outages.”

Building on that, Sunrun in May proposed a bold plan to replace one of three Los Angeles natural gas power plants slated for retirement with the power produced and stored by rooftop solar-plus-storage systems.

According to Sunrun’s 2019–2030 Repowering Clean: Gigawatt-Scale Potential for Residential Solar & Battery Storage in Los Angeles “LADWP (the L.A. Department of Water & Power) can raise its targets for local clean energy with residential solar to create a city-wide clean energy ‘virtual power plant’: rooftop solar and battery storage on as few as 75,000 Los Angeles homes can replace peak capacity of one of LADWP’s retiring gas plants.” Moreover, L.A. could save nearly $60 million by doing so, according to the study.


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