Solar power and energy aggregator Sunrun will work with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric this summer to combine some 7,500 residential solar and battery systems into a virtual power plant.
The aggregation of that power capacity stored will help manage energy demand during the state’s hottest months.
According to Sunrun, the Energy Efficiency Summer Reliability Program aims to lower energy costs during peak demand and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. It adds that the program will use residential solar and battery systems to provide efficient and flexible support when energy demand is high and supplies are limited.
Up to 7,500 residential home solar and battery systems in PG&E’s service area will be enrolled into the program, creating a virtual power plant (VPP) capable of delivering 30 MW of clean energy back to the grid.
A VPP is a system that stores renewable energy generated by the solar panels during the day and shared it back to the grid during peak times, such as at night or during hot summer months when energy supplies are tighter.
The new Sunrun VPP was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission on January 30, 2023. Sunrun says it will start enrolling customers soon, with dispatches beginning on August 1, 2023.
“There’s no denying climate events are becoming more severe and power outages are more frequent and prolonged as a result,” said Mary Powell, CEO of Sunrun. “Consumers want energy security and peace of mind, and by integrating more reliable clean energy resources into the grid through this innovative program, we can deliver that with PG&E. This forward-looking partnership strengthens our emergency preparedness and puts the customer at the center of the energy system.”
During the months of August through October, batteries enrolled in the program will discharge energy from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when energy demand is high. Participating customers will receive an upfront payment of $750 and a free smart thermostat. Enrolled batteries will retain enough energy to meet personal, essential needs of homeowners in the event of a local power outage.
The program is open to all Sunrun solar and battery customers in single-family homes who have an interconnection agreement with PG&E, and are not enrolled in other demand response programs.
Meanwhile, Sunrun will earn incremental revenue for managing virtual power plant services for one year, with an opportunity for the program to be extended and expanded in the future.
The partnership between the two companies was formed in response to a declaration of emergency by California Governor Gavin Newsom. The proclamation called on energy providers “to take immediate action to reduce the strain on the energy infrastructure, increase energy capacity, and make energy supply more resilient this year to protect the health and safety of Californians.”
“Home batteries and virtual power plants are valuable resources for supporting grid reliability and an essential part of California’s clean energy future,” said Patti Poppe, CEO of PG&E Corporation. “In collaboration with Sunrun, our Energy Efficiency Summer Reliability Program will serve as a unique resource that will positively contribute to our state’s electric grid and complement a host of actions PG&E is taking to provide greater energy resilience to our customers and hometowns.”
Sunrun commenced a VPP program utilizing solar-powered energy storage several years ago with Southern California Edison.