Turning to Virtual Power Plants to make Renewables ViableCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 27, 2012 09:34AM
There are multiple factors that go into the determination of how much a watt will cost, when the electric bill comes. One of them is the prediction of how much power will be needed for the period, because the closer the actual draw is to the prediction the easier it is for the power supplier to optimize its output. Responding to fluctuations from the prediction can require costly measures. This system actually deters the use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, because they are very difficult to predict, but researchers at the University of Southampton have a plan; develop and incentivize the use of Virtual Power Plants (VPPs).
The idea behind a virtual power plant is actually fairly simple. We cannot predict the output of a single wind turbine because we cannot predict how hard or for how long the wind will blow on it over the course of a week or month. However, over a large enough group of wind turbines, a prediction can be made, and this group can also produce the power of a single traditional power plant. What the researchers are proposing actually goes a step further than just VPPs as it suggests having cooperative VPPs (CVPPs). These larger virtual entities not only will produce more power than traditional power plants but will be even easier to predict the output of.
By making it easier to predict the output of the renewable power sources, and therefore how they can be used to reach the predicted power draw for a period of time, the researchers believe it will be easier for power companies to start integrating those technologies into power grids. Large-scale power storage systems could also help with this, but those are still in development and this software approach could make a difference in the near future.