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Battery company is making strides in what could be the first 'virtual power plant' — here's what it means for homeowners

"They could have the real blueprint for energy transition."

"They could have the real blueprint for energy transition."

Photo Credit: Sonnen

As record-breaking heatwaves become the norm, battery maker Sonnen USA is safeguarding energy grids by contributing to a residential-storage "virtual power plant" in Puerto Rico that could end up being one of the largest to date, as Grist reported

Virtual power plants (VPPs) are networks of small-scale energy resources, such as solar panels, electric vehicles, appliances, home batteries, and any other electric devices. 

Connecting these energy-producing devices makes grids more resilient since residents share stored energy, helping reduce strain during peak demand periods. They also provide a reliable source of power during blackouts and lower electric bills for homeowners, as utility companies compensate customers for their energy contributions, according to RMI

Sonnen partnered with Puerto Rico's utility provider, LUMA Energy, to help increase the grid's energy capacity by installing batteries at homes with solar panels as part of LUMA's yearlong pilot program. The program, which began late last year, aims to help with Puerto Rico's clean energy transition, prevent blackouts, and boost the grid's energy supply. 

The program hopes to enroll 6,500 customers and add around 26 megawatts of power to the grid, as Grist reported. It's already making significant headway — nearly 2,000 households had signed up by the end of 2023, adding 12.4 MW of capacity. 

Grist explained that customers don't have to worry about LUMA drawing too much energy from their batteries, as the program allows them to control how much power they store in reserves. 

In addition, homeowners have a huge financial incentive to enroll, as solar providers share their revenue with customers. For example, Sonnen provides $750 to people who sign up, with a potential yearly bonus based on how much power their batteries supply to the grid. 

"That's three times the value of net metering," Javier Rúa-Jovet, chief policy officer at the Puerto Rico Solar and Energy Storage Association, told Grist, referring to the money customers get by selling extra energy to the electric company. "It can mean a free battery for someone in a 10-year window." 

If the program goes well, energy officials plan to expand the VPP, which could be larger than any in North America if all home batteries on the island are connected. 

"They could have the real blueprint for energy transition," Blake Richetta, the CEO of Sonnen USA, told Grist. "The energy IQ of Puerto Rico is going really high, and people are ready to make this leapfrog forward."

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