Replacing fossil-powered peaker plants with virtual power plants will mean a cleaner, cheaper, more reliable power supply, according to a recent white paper commissioned by California-based energy application developer Autogrid.
While polluting peaker plants have traditionally kicked in to meet demand surges and respond to rapid demand changes, cloud-based virtual power plants (VPPs) that “aggregate and orchestrate a diverse portfolio of distributed energy resources (DER)” are poised to take over that task, Autogrid reports [pdf].
Given that fossil peaker plants “can sit idle for as much as 99% of the year waiting to respond to those peak hours, making them among the most polluting and expensive resources on the system,” replacing them with VPPs will be a clear boon for air quality, and for public and private coffers.
Autogrid notes that “750,000 residents of New York City live within one mile of peaker plants,” industrial behemoths which “account for 94% of nitrogen oxide emissions on hot, high ozone days,” with the poor and communities of colour suffering disproportionately from the health impacts of such air pollution.
And when a peaker plant kicks in, it can end up “costing ratepayers up to 1,300% more than the average electricity price.”
Inherently nimble, flexible, and resilient (with “no single point of failure,” as there was during the catastrophic winter storm in Texas last February) the VPP, “leverages customer-owned assets in new, creative ways, reducing capital costs since many of these assets are already deployed and fully paid off.”
A perfect fit with “growing decarbonization goals,” VPPs stand to “capitalize on the exponential growth in DER assets around the world,” the paper adds.
“The only requirement for VPPs is a reliable power grid, and they become especially attractive if market rules are intelligently designed to foster the monetization of grid services such as frequency regulation.”