More people, more energy, more renewables
Virtual power plants, also known as virtual power pools (VPP), are fast becoming a driving force in the power industry, due to rising demand for energy and the global turn to renewables.
By 2025 there will be 1 billion more people on the planet, all requiring electricity. And by 2040, 60 percent of the power generated worldwide will come from renewable sources, almost half of which from wind and solar photovoltaic. Much of this solar and wind power will be generated by small-scale producers - individuals, businesses and municipalities.
As a result, the need is escalating for virtual power plants that combine multiple, geographically dispersed production units into a single optimized entity that can plan and adjust production dynamically and trade intelligently on the energy market.
Together, they do more and do it better
A virtual power plant/pool is a collection of power generation sources, energy storage devices and demand-response participants located in a distributed energy grid.
Almost any power generating technology can be in a VPP, including biogas, biomass, combined heat and power (CHP), micro CHP, wind, solar, hydro, power-to-heat, diesel engines and fossil fuel.
Energy storage facilities can also be incorporated into a VPP. Any type of energy storage technology can be applied, including batteries, thermal storage, compressed air or pumped storage.
Municipalities, microgrids and industry
Typically, VPPs pool production from tens, hundreds or even thousands of small and medium-sized renewable energy plants into a network that has the scale and flexibility to participate in the electricity market.
But they also serve other applications as well. ABB solutions enable municipalities to optimize and manage their electricity, steam and heat production from multiple sources and to buy and sell energy when prices are advantageous.
Microgrids, which traditionally rely on costly and emission-producing diesel and gas generators, can integrate renewable sources and maximize their use by switching to fossil fuel only when needed and in real time, should poor weather or high demand require.
Energy-intensive industries that generate their own electricity are also realizing the benefits of virtual power pools. By combining production planning, energy management and energy trading they can reduce their energy costs by 5-10 percent, without changing production targets or delivery deadlines.
And conventional multi-unit power plants can improve their flexibility, reduce fuel consumption and lower their carbon dioxide emissions by pooling the units internally to optimize the performance of the plant, much as a virtual power plant.
Central control and optimization
The goal of a VPP is to operate its pool of units optimally and cost effectively and to generate maximum revenues for its participants by bidding informedly and smartly on the energy trading market.
ABB Ability™ Energy Optimization for Virtual Power Plants allows VPPs to do this. It provides central control and optimization, links energy sources with markets, performs day-ahead and intra-day forecasting, and issues and updates commitment schedules to pool participants. The technology is highly customizable and scalable, enabling VPP operators to rapidly expand from a few units to thousands, seamlessly and without interruption to operations.