Sunrun scales up virtual power plant programme with California utility

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Sunrun installers on a customer's roof. Image: Sunrun.

US residential solar installer and leasing company Sunrun will aggregate home solar-plus-storage systems into a virtual power plant (VPP) capable of providing 5MW of grid support, with California utility Southern California Edison (SCE).

Sunrun said yesterday that it has signed a contract with SCE, one of California’s main investor-owned utilities (IOUs). The solar company’s Brightbox home energy storage packages will respond to signals from SCE to offer their stored energy capacity to the network at times of strain and high demand for the grid, such as during extreme heatwaves of the type California endured this summer.

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Through this contract, the systems will participate in the Resource Adequacy (RA) programme of the regional grid and market operator, California Independent System operator (CAISO). Resource Adequacy is the means by which CAISO ensures the lights stay on in the state and has been an important driver for solar-plus-storage installations in California, including for large-scale projects.

Sunrun added that 10% or more of that RA capacity will come from Sunrun devices installed at low-to-moderate income households. The company will start installing systems for this programme at the end of this year, with all installations expected to be completed by August 2023.

Sunrun’s leadership including CEO Lynn Jurich have said in the past that allowing solar-plus-storage systems to provide services for the grid provides revenues for the company which can be used to lower the overall cost of energy for its customers.

The contract comes following an initial 300-home demonstration announced with SCE in June this year. Elsewhere, Sunrun said earlier this month that it will be offering Brighbox, which bundles up equipment from providers including battery and battery system company LG Chem, to all US markets in which Sunrun operates.

Also in June this year, the company said it has partnered with distributed energy resources (DERs) management platform provider AutoGrid, for AutoGrid’s Flex software platform to manage the Brightbox systems when aggregated into fleets. Sunrun said at the time that it had by then racked up US$50 million worth of grid services projects either already contracted or in the pipeline.

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