Tesla Energy has introduced a virtual power plant program for residents of Puerto Rico. Like most islands, Puerto Rico has an energy problem. Electricity has become a fundamental component of modern life, but generating it on relatively small patches of land in the middle of vast oceans is challenging. Regardless of whether the generators are powered by coal, oil, diesel, or methane gas, the fuel has to be brought to the island by ships, which makes the electricity expensive.
Not only that, the grid infrastructure on islands is often battered by storms that cause frequent outages. That may be a minor inconvenience for those who can’t play video games during a blackout but it can have life threatening consequences for those who need electricity to keep their medications cool or to power life support systems.
Tesla pioneered the virtual power plant concept in South Australia in 2018. In February of that year, Tesla and the government of South Australia announced a plan to create the largest virtual power plant in the world — 50,000 5 kilowatt rooftop solar systems, each paired with a 13.5 kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerwall battery for a total system output of 250 megawatts and 625 megawatt-hours of storage. That system has been a resounding success, bringing clean, renewable, and affordable electricity to thousands of people.
Ever since Hurricane Maria inflicted heavy damage to that Puerto Rico’s electrical grid in 2017, the US government has been funding upgrades to the island’s electrical grid, but outages are still all too common. Now Tesla Energy wants to bring its virtual power plant technology to Puerto Rico. On its website, it describes the plan in simple terms.
“Tesla Virtual Power Plant (VPP) connects distributed batteries installed in residential homes, enhancing Puerto Rico’s grid reliability and resiliency. By joining the Battery Emergency Demand Response Program, your Powerwall will be dispatched to provide emergency support when the grid needs it most. Participation allows you to earn $1 for every kWh your Powerwall supplies during such events. You can adjust your VPP Backup Reserve to determine the level of your contribution while ensuring an adequate backup energy supply for outages.”
Benefits Of Tesla Energy VPP Program
The company lists several reasons why people might want to take advantage of this offer, among them:
- Stabilize Puerto Rico’s Grid — The extra capacity your Powerwall provides could help avoid or reduce blackouts in a severe emergency.
- Unite as a Tesla Community — Team up with other Powerwall owners in Puerto Rico to build a more resilient and reliable grid.
- Maintain Your Energy Security — Powerwall will never discharge below your VPP Backup Reserve, allowing you to maintain backup energy for outages.
- Earn Compensation — You will receive $1 for every kWh your Powerwall provides during an event. You don’t have to change your energy usage behavior to participate.
For some perspective on the rate of compensation, the cost of electricity per kWh for residential customers in Puerto Rico today is 22.12 cents.
The Battery Emergency Demand Response Program
LUMA, the utility company responsible for maintaining the electrical grid in Puerto Rico, has created what it calls its Battery Emergency Demand Response Program. The BEDRP is a next-generation pilot program designed to leverage customer battery storage systems to increase the supply of energy available to the electricity grid during peak demand periods, to improve day-to-day service reliability and minimize the impact of load shedding.
The BEDRP will be implemented by companies known as Aggregators, who will enable participating customers to export energy from the customer’s battery storage systems during times with generation shortage. The BEDRP is now open for enrollment. To enroll in the program, all eligible customers must sign up through an approved aggregator, the company says.
Tesla is one of those approved aggregators. Customers who already have a Powerwall installed can apply to join the VPP program by using their Tesla Energy app. Once their eligibility is confirmed, they will be enrolled automatically.
Tesla will call upon the VPP when the grid operator’s forecast or actual system conditions show there may not be adequate capacity to support the grid. Tesla may also call events at other times to meet the program minimum of 50 events per program year.
Participants may receive a push notification informing them of when their Powerwall will be called upon to supply electricity back to the grid. The Powerwall system will prioritize charging and preparing for an event after the event is scheduled. An event may be scheduled a day ahead, but circumstances may require much less notice, Tesla says.
When an event begins, each participating Powerwall will begin discharging to support the grid. It will continue to discharge until the event ends, until it reaches the VPP Backup Reserve level specified by the customer, or until a customer chooses to opt out of the event. At completion of the event, Powerwall will resume normal operation.
Tesla Powerall VPP Settings
Powerwall customers who opt in to the VPP program always have control over their batteries. When they join the program, their VPP Backup Reserve will be set at 20%, which is different from the regular backup reserve setting. Customers can adjust their VPP Backup Reserve to control how much energy they send back to the grid during events separately from how much they maintain in case of an outage at any time. Setting a lower backup reserve for VPP events allows customers to share more energy with the grid and earn more money.
When an event is scheduled or active, Powerwall gives customers the option to opt out through the Tesla app. There is also a toggle switch in the app that allows customers to suspend their participation. They can rejoin at any time.
Four times per year, Tesla will calculate the kWh contribution for each Powerwall and share that information with the utility company. Once Tesla receives its compensation from the utility, Tesla will pass it along to its participating Powerwall customers. It may take several months after events start for the first payments to be distributed, the company says.
Zero Down Solar And Powerwall Program
Some Tesla owners received an email from the company this week notifying them of a new offering from the company. “$0 Down Payment and 25-year Loan Now Available,” it read. “Start saving money on your electricity bill once your system is powered on. Order solar and Powerwall with $0 down and a 25-year loan to charge your vehicle with energy from the sun while helping to protect your home from outages.”
One CleanTechnica staff member got the email and shared it with the usual suspects here at our global headquarters. Not every Tesla owner was on the distribution list. Those who live in DeSantistan were left out, probably because residential solar power is as welcome in Florida as Mediterranean fruit flies.
The upshot is, you can now go online, plug in some information about your home, and be on your way to charging your car with clean solar energy with no money out of pocket in just a few minutes. If you meet the criteria, this may be an offer you want to check out. If you try it and like it, let us know and we will spread the news far and wide.
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