London’s first ‘virtual power station’ set for launch

Global energy investment not meeting sustainability goals
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London’s first ‘virtual power station’ powered by domestic solar panels is to be launched.

UK Power Networks, the company that delivers electricity to more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England, will create the capital’s first ever ‘virtual power station’ powered solely by solar panels on the roofs of people’s homes.

This technology supports the Mayor’s ambition to make London the world’s leading smart city.

Domestic storage batteries until now have enabled residents to reduce their energy bills by storing surplus energy generated from solar panels.

The creation of the virtual power station will mean that residents can now both save and earn money from their batteries.

The technology will mean that on days when there is particularly high demand for electricity, UK Power Networks will be able to instruct the batteries, through battery manufacturer and energy aggregator Powervault, to discharge in unison to relieve pressure on the electricity network at peak times.

Local residents will receive a payment when their batteries discharge.

The new flexibility contract is the first time in London that people with solar panels and battery storage installed at home will be paid to support the distribution network in this way.

The renewable energy generated by solar panels during the day can discharge from their batteries for a minimum of half an hour at a time in the evening and, in the future, could help to reduce the need for new network infrastructure, such as building substations and laying cables.

The fleet of batteries due to be installed in approximately 40 homes across the London Borough of Barnet will be remotely controlled to combine the output from domestic solar panels and ensure they are fully charged and ready for the weekday evening peak demand.

The shift to local renewable generation has transformed the UK’s energy system, and the virtual power plant is just one of a number of innovation projects giving customers greater control over their energy use.

When UK Power Networks launched its vision for the future, ‘A Smart Grid for All’, last year, it described the transformation in energy as being similar to the impact the advent of broadband had on telecommunications in the early 2000s.

The agreement follows a successful trial of the technology with UK Power Networks in February 2018.

During the trial, 45 Powervault batteries installed in customer homes were remotely controlled to minimise consumption during evening peak hours. On average, household evening demand was reduced by 60%.