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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Monday, May 22, 2023

Finally, A Solution To The Problem Of Intermittent Power Generation -- The "Virtual Power Plant

May 20, 2023 @ Manhattan Contrarian 

As discussed here many, many times, the big problem with generating electricity from wind and solar sources is that they are intermittent. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they don’t work for days on end. The times when both wind and sun fail at the same time for multiple days tend to be concentrated in the very coldest days of the winter. This poses a huge problem for central planners’ dreams of “net zero” electricity. Try to solve the problem with grid-scale batteries, and suddenly you’re talking wildly unaffordable costs in the trillions of dollars.

Not to worry. Recently everywhere talk has emerged of a new and seemingly easy solution to the problem of intermittency. Have you heard of it? It’s the “Virtual Power Plant.” I mean, today pretty much everything can be “virtual” if you want it to be. We have the “virtual” meeting, the “virtual” office, and the “virtual” school — even “virtual” reality. So why not a “virtual” power plant?

But, in the context of generating electricity, what does this business of “virtual” mean? Don’t you actually need to have something to produce the juice? A Manhattan Contrarian investigation now reveals that the Virtual Power Plant is exactly what you undoubtedly already suspect it to be: another new level of Orwellian doubletalk. “Virtual Power Plant” turns out to be another term for pointless enforced sacrifice in service to the climate cult.

If you have been paying attention, you probably have already noticed that this “Virtual Power Plant” thing is the latest talking point of the central planners. For those who have been paying less attention, let me provide a little sampling: here is the web page from the federal government’s Department of Energy (“Virtual power plants, generally considered a connected aggregation of distributed energy resource (DER) technologies, offer deeper integration of renewables and demand flexibility, which in turn offers more Americans cleaner and more affordable power”); a recent (2023) Report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (“Virtual Power Plants, Real Benefits: How aggregating distributed energy resources can benefit communities, society, and the grid”); a piece from Reuters, January 31, 2023 (“Explainer: What is a virtual power plant?”); a piece from Elektrek, September 2, 2022, informing us that none other than Tesla is in the middle of this new fad (“Tesla virtual power plant is rocketing up, reaches 50 MW”).

OK, then, this VPP thing has something to do with “a connected aggregation of distributed power resources.” What the heck does that mean?

Trying to get to the bottom of this, I come upon a piece from Utility Dive on May 5, and a Report from the Brattle Group with a May 2023 date. (You may recognize the Brattle Group as the people who put out the 2021 New York Power Grid Study that I criticized in this post on April 22.)

Both Utility Dive and the Brattle Group start out with excited descriptions of this VPP thing as some magical concoction to defeat the intermittency problem with almost no cost or sweat. From Utility Dive’s summary of the Brattle Group’s conclusions:

The net cost for a utility to provide resource adequacy from a virtual power plant is about 40% to 60% less than natural gas peaker plants and utility-scale batteries. Deploying 60 GW of VPPs “could meet future U.S. resource adequacy needs at $15-$35 billion less than the cost of the alternative options over the ensuing decade,” Brattle’s report said.

And it gets even more magical. From page 12 of the Brattle Group Report:

In fact, a VPP does not even need to generate power.

Wait a minute — what is a “power plant” that doesn’t generate any power? Let us in on the secret! We have to get that by working our way through a model set forth in the Report. In that model, the “Virtual Power Plant” derives its input (if you want to call it that) almost entirely from the following three things:

Smart Thermostats. A/C and electric heating are controlled to reduce usage during peak times. Customer comfort is managed through pre-cooling/heating. Smart Water Heating. Electric water heaters act as a grid-interactive thermal battery, providing daily load shifting and even real-time grid balancing. Home EV Managed Charging. EV charging is a large, flexible source of load that can be shifted overnight.

It’s “smart” thermostats, and “smart” water heaters, and “managed” EV charging. If I might, let me translate that into layman’s terms. On the coldest days of the winter, when the grid does not have enough power, first we will take the liberty of draining the power out of your EV battery. In the all EV utopia that we envision, you are now stuck at home. Then, we will remotely turn off your heat and hot water. Hey, it’s to save the planet!

In this vision, the convenience and comfort, let alone the physical safety, of the people are of no importance. No more the American dream, where you can improve your life by hard work. Now it’s to be forced sacrifice to satisfy the jealous gods of the pagan climate cult.

It’s one more front in the all-out war against your well-being now being waged by our government.

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