sonnen and partner tiko Energy Solutions have received pre-qualification from the transmission system operator for the grid in Germany, TenneT, to leverage its existing distributed network of energy storage systems pooled into a virtual power plant to provide primary balancing power.
The new system will leverage sonnen’s existing network of individual residential energy storage systems as a distributed virtual power plant. The new contract stretches the utility of its residential energy storage systems beyond just providing the capability to store and distribute power to the home. The new capability will utilize the distributed network of sonnen batteries to compensate for fluctuations in grid power, in addition to other services the company is exploring.
“The ability of networked battery storages operating as a virtual power plant to stabilize the grid in the event of frequency fluctuations is another step on the way to a greater system integration of renewable energy,” said Lex Hartman, CEO of TenneT. System services that serve to stabilize the power supply would previously be provided mainly by conventional power plants. With the increasing share of renewable energies in electricity generation, renewables will need to take on a greater responsibility, Hartman said.
Hartman’s comments reveal both the extremely dynamic nature of distributed and centralized energy storage as well as the rapidly changing landscape of electricity on the grid. Utilities are increasingly open to exploring new partnerships to determine how new solutions like virtual power plants can solve the problems caused by other challenges on the grid like excessive daytime solar. Sending little bits of that power to thousands of homes for storage is preferable to grounding the power and can benefit everyone on the grid.
“As a young company, we are very proud to be writing energy history. In doing so, we are showing that our customers in Germany can assume all of the functions that were previously reserved for large power stations. They can create and store energy and also ensure the security of supply within the power grid. The shift from the old energy system with central power stations to a new distributed system with the people at its core, is finally coming about as a result,” said Jean-Baptiste Cornefert, Managing Director of sonnen eServices.
In sonnen’s case, the new solution bundles thousands of its residential energy storage units installed across Germany into a single negotiating unit that leverages the batteries independent capability to work together as a large units of up to 1 MW. These 1 MW units are then put onto the energy market for grid operators to bid on.
To validate the functionality and responsiveness of sonnen’s virtual power plant, sonnen’s 1 MW virtual blocks were put to the test, discharging a full MW of power to the grid and recharging the same amount back from the grid in under 30 seconds. sonnen’s system passed, qualifying the sonnen virtual battery to participate in what is called the primary operating reserve market.
The primary operating reserve is the amount of standby electricity generation the transmission system operator (TSO) must have on hand to bring online in the event of a power plant failure. It is generally defined by the total amount of power generated by the top two power plants in a defined region. The thinking is that if one power plant fails, it could cause another plant to fail and the primary operating reserve is designed to mitigate that worst case scenario. For a deeper dive, German think tank Fraunhofer IWES breaks the distinctions of the different reserve types and ancillary services in the German electricity markets down nicely.
sonnen’s virtual power plant in Germany can already rapidly balance the grid for short-term fluctuations in the power grid and maintain the grid frequency at 50 Hz. Both can be performed in a matter of seconds and without the need to startup any inefficient, expensive to operate and maintain peaker plants.
“We are proud of the fact that with sonnen we are now able to implement our virtual power plant technology. This is pioneering work for the German market; it means that energy storage systems are able to deliver the two-fold benefits of managing personal consumption while providing various services to the energy market. With sonnen, we have now been able to show, among other things, that it is also possible to provide primary balancing power in Germany by means of home energy storage systems,” says Fréderic Gastaldo, CEO of tiko Energy Solutions.
sonnen achieving pre-certification for its virtual power plant in Germany signals that grids around the world are looking for and finding new solutions to deliver low and no carbon electricity to customers as more and more renewables are added to the grid.
sonnen’s virtual power plant is notable as it does not require the installation of massive new grid infrastructure, but instead leverages the existing infrastructure that ties residential power systems together. sonnen has around 30,000 sonnenBatterie systems in Europe, each with a capacity between 6 to 16 kWh. The total network has a capacity of up to 300 MWh and the potential to supply around 120,000 households with electricity for one hour.
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