Solar Company to Build Puerto Rico’s First Virtual Solar Power Plant
Sunrun, a solar power and battery company based in San Francisco, will build the first virtual solar power plant in Puerto Rico. The virtual power plant (VPP) will be 17 megawatts and is designed to strengthen the power grid with solar energy aggregated from more than 7,000 customers’ residential solar and battery systems.
During 2023, Sunrun will work on enrolling customers into the VPP program and expects network dispatches to begin in 2024. According to the company, the enrolled customers receive cost savings from generating solar energy, and any backup power also earns customers money for sharing stored energy with the power grid.
“Puerto Ricans are ready to make the move to reliable independent clean energy solutions that will increase their sense of safety and security in their own homes,” Sunrun CEO Mary Powell said in a press release. “We’re solving energy insecurity on the island by switching the model so that solar energy is generated on rooftops and stored in batteries to power each home, and then shared with neighbors, creating a clean shared energy economy. That way, residents not only have control over their energy at home, but can also share power with their community and be compensated for it.”
A virtual power plant is a decentralized power network that draws energy from multiple independent sources, and Sunrun’s project in Puerto Rico will create a virtual power plant relying on solar panels and battery storage for a clean energy network that can better withstand outages.
In 2019, the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act passed to focus on a more sustainable energy system, and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) noted that VPPs were the best solution. Consumers benefit greatly through VPPs, from saving money on utilities to reducing pollution from fossil fuels to having a more reliable grid for all. According to Sunrun, thousands of its consumers with solar-plus-battery systems had more than 350,000 hours of backup power after Hurricane Fiona.
“My solar and battery system kept my lights on and my family safe during Hurricane Fiona,” said Hector Jimenez, a Sunrun customer in San Juan, according to the company’s press release. “My neighbors relied on diesel to run their generators and started to worry when fuel supply began to run low. I was able to help them out by charging up portable batteries and lending them to people in the community who needed electricity.”
Consumers with solar-plus-battery systems interested in participating in the VPP will be able to provide backup energy reserves during grid outages but also have the option to opt out of the program at any time. The VPP terms of agreement were approved by the Governing Board of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on October 26, 2022, and the agreement is awaiting regulatory sign-off by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Fiscal Oversight Management Board.