The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in late December announced an agreement with Swell Energy that would give the California public power utility the ability to tap into its customers’ energy storage devices to create a “virtual power plant.”
Under the agreement, Swell Energy will act as the aggregator for the My Energy Optimizer Partner+ program. The initial effort of the program would provide SMUD with 20 megawatt hours (MWh) and 10 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity by recruiting, installing and aggregating capacity from customer battery storage systems in its service territory. The program has the opportunity to scale to 54 MWh and 27 MW over the term of the partnership, SMUD said.
The program enables customers to operate their energy storage systems alongside many others to aggregate and dispatch renewable energy sources to benefit their communities.
SMUD said it currently has about 600 customer-sited energy storage systems with another 400 systems in the interconnection process and thousands more projected over the next several years.
SMUD plans to begin enrollment in the My Energy Optimizer Partner+ program in the first quarter and begin operations in April. Enrollment is open to both new and existing solar and storage customers with contract capability is based on 2-hour deliverable capacity.
Participating customers will receive both upfront and ongoing compensation, or GridRevenue, based on the capacity of their solar and energy storage systems.
Utilities from Hawaii to Vermont are exploring virtual power plants, including Holy Cross Energy, a cooperative utility in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Con Edison in New York, which is working with SunPower Corp. on a pilot program to offer solar power systems with battery storage to more than 300 New York homeowners. Last June, California community choice aggregator Marin Clean Energy unveiled a virtual power plant program that is expected to begin in 2025.