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The Growth in Virtual Energy Resources

(Rick Sander, CEO, Tuesday September 1, 2020)

One of the hot topics in energy today is the concept of “virtual powerplants” or “microgrids”. One simply has to look at the rapid increase in solar power in the US over the past decade to understand why this is a hot topic – photovoltaic (PV) solar energy accounted for 40% of the new electrical generating capacity added in the US in 2019 and the first quarter of 2020. The number of PV solar installations in the US has grown thirty-five fold, resulting in an estimated 62.5 GW of generating power. Through 2050, PV solar is expected to be the fastest-growing renewable energy source (see the graph below). Much of this power is also distributed – PV solar installations in homes and businesses are a significant percentage of the total solar installations, though utility installations are expected to grow at a faster rate than non-utility installations through 2050.

Throw in batteries to store the power generated by PV solar, and you have a significant resource that can support (or disrupt) energy markets. These “virtual power plants” may not be economically competitive with bulk power under normal circumstances, but when peak shifting is factored in, PV solar becomes an interesting proposition. That is why a number of companies such as Sunrun and Stem are beginning to provide aggregation services, where they combine the generation capabilities of hundreds or thousands of rooftops with battery storage systems to provide “grid-scale” power. In places where rolling blackouts occur, these microgrids can also provide continuous power for consumers. The combination of these capabilities can be extremely attractive to homeowners, businesses, aggregation operators, and utilities themselves. Expect more of these programs to emerge as energy-consuming devices such as electric vehicles are added to the grid, and the problems of providing peak power become more pronounced.

Rhombus has built high-power bi-directional inverters for renewable energy such as “behind the meter” grid energy storage systems for several years. We have applied that expertise to the design of our bi-directional electric vehicle (EV) charging systems, which are designed from the start for the needs of fleet operators. As a leader in the development and manufacturing of bi-directional, high-power systems for both vehicle charging and grid energy storage applications, Rhombus is unusually experienced in high-power charging systems for EVs, and  the area of V2G charging. Rhombus  also excels in the design and testing of high-power electrical equipment to meet the requirements of UL and other certification organizations. We have built hundreds of V2G-capable high-power, high-reliability chargers for a variety of different sizes and classes of EVs. Find out how we can help you by contacting us at sales@rhombusenergy.com, or by reading our Vehicle to Grid Solution Brief.

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