Renewable energy and a smarter decentralized grid can play an important role in rebuilding communities. This is a very cool example: MCE is embarking on a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) program in Richmond, CA, slated to launch in 2025, which is also linked to a community rehabilitation project. Essentially, abandoned homes will be retrofitted with smart solar power technology and networked as part of this VPP.
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The VPP program will allow MCE to shift load off peak hours from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. This can significantly reduce customer bills in a community where one-fifth of residents live in poverty, twice the county average. It also lowers the network voltage, reducing the risk of power outages. Eventually, this VPP could also be offered on the wholesale market.
“The Richmond Advanced Energy Community project is a great example of community building for a clean energy future,” said California Energy Commission Chairman David Hochschild. “This is a one-of-a-kind project that will combine clean energy technologies with tangible community benefits through integration with the California grid.”
This Advanced Energy Community project in Richmond includes $3 million in funding from the California Energy Commission and involves project developer, ZNE Alliance, and ALCO Building Solutions, Ecoshift Consulting, Energy Solutions, mPrest, Richmond Community Foundation, THG Energy Solutions , TRC and ZGlobal .
The ZNC Homes program will finance the acquisition, complete rehabilitation and resale of homes as affordable properties. These ZNC homes will be built to be energy efficient and resilient, and each home will have a full range of smart appliances and cost-saving amenities, including rooftop solar, battery energy storage and heat pumps. Local businesses will also have the option of installing batteries that provide resilience to grid outages, bill savings and revenue generation potential.
MCE’s Virtual Power Plant will feature smart and clean energy technologies including energy storage, smart thermostats, rooftop solar, heat pump space and water heating and charging electric vehicles. The VPP will initially be connected to up to 100 Net Zero Carbon Homes (ZNC Homes) and larger commercial and industrial sites.
Similar to traditional power plants, VPPs deliver electricity to the grid, but instead of coming from a single source, VPPs are made up of a network of digitally connected technologies distributed across a community. VPPs help stabilize the power grid by quickly dispatching electricity to and from grid resources to shift power consumption off peak hours and take greater advantage of solar generation at midday.
“37% of our residents are enrolled in the CARE discount program, which is 12% more than the state average,” said Tom Butt, MCE Board Chairman and Mayor of Richmond. “MCE’s partnership with our city on VPP and ZNC Homes will strengthen equity in the community by revitalizing our housing stock and reducing energy costs for our residents.”
Once established, MCE will use the VPP in statewide electricity markets – operated by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – to demonstrate the aggregation of customer resources by a CCA, as well as the integration, planning and settlement of these resources in the CAISO. markets. Participating residents will be paid for their role in providing localized network services through a dynamic value-sharing agreement.
“By bringing zero-carbon smart homes to Richmond residents, they will be able to access affordable homes to buy and own,” said ZNE Alliance Executive Director Richard Schorske. “This element of the Advanced Energy Community builds on many years of work by the Richmond Community Foundation, the City of Richmond and MCE, and we are thrilled to see it come to fruition.
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