Puerto Rico transforming its grid with 17-MW virtual power plant via Sunrun

puerto rico solar

Sunrun is connecting a 17 MW virtual power plant (VPP) in Puerto Rico to help rebuild and transform the island’s energy system. This VPP, consisting of more than 7,000 Sunrun home solar-plus-battery systems will be the first distributed large-scale storage program on the island.

VPPs are great for lowering energy costs for all consumers, providing onsite backup, reducing pollution and, maybe most importantly here, hardening a fragile grid with reliable, small-scale systems.

Sunrun will spend the next year enrolling customers into the program and begin networked dispatches in 2024. In addition to having onsite backup and self-consumption benefits, customers will be compensated in exchange for strategically sharing their stored energy with Puerto Rico’s power grid. All customers with batteries are also eligible to enroll and can opt out at any point during the 10-year program.

VPP technology enables utilities to call upon distributed resources for clean energy capacity instead of peaker plants, which in turn saves all grid-connected customers money by cutting back on fossil fuel consumption and centralized grid infrastructure investments.

“Puerto Ricans are ready to make the move to reliable independent clean energy solutions that will increase their sense of safety and security in their own homes,” said Sunrun CEO Mary Powell. “We’re solving energy insecurity on the island by switching the model so that solar energy is generated on rooftops and stored in batteries to power each home, and then shared with neighbors, creating a clean shared energy economy.”

Earlier this fall, Hurricane Fiona knocked out the island’s power grid, leaving more than three million residents in the dark. Sunrun customers on the island were able to power through the extended outages. Sunrun solar-plus-battery systems provided more than 350,000 hours of backup power to thousands of homes.

Powell also gives a shout out Sunrun’s channel partners in Puerto Rico, who have “endured through so many climatic events yet continue to help Sunrun deliver energy independence and peace of mind to thousands of Puerto Rican households,” as well as Governor Pierluisi, the legislature, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Solar and Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Department of Energy also provided technical assistance to the rebuilding effort.

In 2019, two years after Hurricane Maria dismantled the island’s electric grid, the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act was passed by the Legislature to set the parameters for a forward-looking energy system that maximizes distributed generation. The Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) determined that VPPs were key to achieving the legislation’s goals of building a resilient and robust energy system and meeting Puerto Rico’s renewable portfolio standards.

This is just the latest in a long line of Sunrun VPPs, including the first wholesale market VPP in the country. This summer in California and New England, Sunrun’s VPPs provided 1.1 and 1.8 gigawatt-hours of energy to local grids during extreme weather conditions, helping utility providers meet peak electricity demand and stave off power outages.

The Governing Board of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority approved the terms of the agreement on October 26, 2022, and the agreement is subject to regulatory sign-off by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Fiscal Oversight Management Board.

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