As our world becomes increasingly electrified and global demand for electricity continues to grow, demand-side energy management programs continue to show progress toward being an important part of the modern power grid. In fact, a virtual power plant (VPP) deployment in Texas last July shows that such programs have real potential to help add stability to the grid during periods of high demand – even in conjunction with one of the largest system operators in the United States.
Acting to Reduce Demand for Power
On July 13, 2022, a grid operator in Texas issued a conservation advisory, urging Texans to make small changes to their day-to-day so that the power grid could maintain its capacity. With projected temperatures soaring to over 100 degrees, the grid operator reported four key factors that led to dwindling reserves - record high electric demand, low wind, forced outages in thermal generators, and cloud cover in west Texas leading to reduced solar generation.
As temperatures continued to rise, Texans on the grid were asked to reduce their energy usage between the hours of 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. CDT. For consumers, this was a polite request to make temporary, voluntary adjustments to their energy consumption, such as running a pool pump in the morning or turning the thermostat up a few degrees during peak hours, according to the Texas Public Utility Commission. Since 2008, conservation strategies have been deployed by the grid operators more than four dozen times when projected reserves fell below 2300 MW for 30 minutes or more. And they have reported overall positive results from these deployments.
Home Standby Generators Spring into Action
As strain on the grid increased, Generac Grid Services received a request from ERCOT to help stabilize the grid using home standby generators voluntarily enrolled in a VPP program. Within 30 minutes of the notification, Generac Grid Services began sending out control signals via Concerto™, its distributed energy resource (DER) control and optimization platform, to rapidly dispatch more than one hundred home standby generators across the Texas grid.
For over three and a half hours, Generac Grid Services remotely controlled participants’ home standby generators, seamlessly transitioning them off utility power without any interruption to their day-to-day lives. Each home was able to conserve their total electricity usage, keeping much-needed energy on the grid, and in total, Generac’s VPP program kept more than 600kW of power online.
"It was very gratifying to be involved in such a high-profile and impactful event. As this program continues to grow, we look forward to making an even larger impact when the opportunity arises," said Brian Oldfield, energy markets operations manager at Generac Grid Services.
The successful deployment of more than 100 generators to reduce strain on the power grid in Texas demonstrates the potential that residential demand-side energy management programs have to create a meaningful impact on grid stability. As adoption of residential backup power continues to grow, VPP programs have the potential to become powerful tools in a grid operator’s toolbelt.
“The conservation appeal was a great example of how the Concerto platform can quickly and efficiently contribute to grid stabilization. With increased visibility of our ongoing contributions to the grid, we look forward to having more customers be part of the solution,” said Gavin Hume, vice president of operations at Generac Grid Services.
Generac’s VPP deployment in response to a demand spike in Texas over the summer demonstrates the value of VPPs in our modern energy mix. The increase in global demand for electricity, paired with the increase in the reliance of power grids on renewable energy sources, means that managing demand for power could be as critical as managing power generation.