A virtual power plant is the combination of numerous solar-powered, battery-backed homes delivering excess power back into the grid to provide power for other locations. Virtual power plants, along with centralized control stations, can make a type of smart grid or can tie into existing smart grids.
A single house’s solar system can supply only so much power to the grid while filling the house’s needs. However, when over a thousand such homes work together, their combined excess power can satisfy a significant amount of electrical demand. A virtual power plant ties a number of disparate power sources together, managing them for better efficiency. By working well with renewable energy sources, virtual power plants also create less ecological impact, for example by lowering CO2 production.
A trial run of a virtual power plant runs with the assistance of Tesla in South Australia, where demand-based blackouts are an ongoing issue. In the first stage, 1,100 South Australian homes were each outfitted with a 5kM solar panel array and a Tesla 13.5kW Powerwall 2. The full project plans to expand to a 50,000 home collective to form a huge virtual power plant, depending on the success of the trial. When the full project is complete, Tesla expects the virtual power plant to produce as much power as a traditional gas or coal turbine power plant.