With an ambitious renewable energy (RE) target, increasing customer awareness and pro-RE policies, the Indian power sector has seen substantial change in it’s energy mix. Albeit challenges, we are seeing a steady shift of our power supply from centralised conventional sources to more of decentralised renewable energy sources like rooftop solar power plants.
While the shift is substantial, there is a lot more to be done to reach our ambitious RE target of 175 GW by 2022. Creating a robust power infrastructure is one of the many measures which will enable India to promote renewable energy amongst developers and the consumers alike. Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is an innovative way as well an important aspect in creation of such an infrastructure.
Moreover, increasingly visible impacts of global warming, the falling costs of renewable power plants and the pro-consumer net meter policies have encouraged the adoption of decentralised power systems popularly known as distributed energy resources (DER). A Virtual Solar Power Plant (VSPP) is a network of such decentralized, medium-scale solar power generating units as well as flexible power consumers and storage systems. These interconnected units are dispatched through the central control room of the Virtual Power Plant but nonetheless remain independent in their operation and ownership. Thus, it relieves the load on the grid by smartly distributing the power generated by the individual units during periods of peak load. VSPPs can also support trading of power on exchanges. In short, VSPP is a software as a service (SaaS) based platform which connects multiple decentralized power plants.
Apart from the DERs, the DISCOMs, the TRANSCOMs, the power exchanges, the technical virtual power plant (TVPP), the commercial virtual power plant (CVPP), the aggregators comprise the Virtual Power Plant ecosystem. While the functions of most of the other parties are well known, TVPP, CVPP and aggregators are parties more specific to a VPP. A TVPP operates more at the Distribution and Transmission levels while the CVPP operates at the DER levels and the aggregators bring together the TVPPs, the CVPPs and the DERs. These participants of the Virtual Power Plant (VPP) are connected to the VPP’s central control system via a remote-control unit. This central control system uses a special algorithm to adjust to balancing reserve commands from transmission system operators, just as larger conventional power plants do.
VPPs performs various critical functions including renewable energy management, asset analytics, DER management and control, demand response management and energy storage management. These functionalities would help create the infrastructure required for new government policies and plans such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan say by enabling effective management of EV charging stations. All said, what India needs is, a strong regulatory framework and work on addressing the security and privacy issues to support the implementation of VPPs on a large scale.
Considering the current situation, the demands of the changing power mix and future power goals, the era of Virtual Solar Power Plants has clearly arrived and we have to create a conducive and secure ecosystem for VSPPs to grow and thrive.
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