Puerto Rico Pilot Program Harnesses Household Renewables

The experiment could become the largest renewable energy grid of its kind.

1 minute read

January 22, 2024, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of rooftop solar panel on sandy peach with tall palm trees.

Refrina / Adobe Stock

A pilot program in Puerto Rico could create the largest renewable energy ‘virtual’ grid in North America. “The yearlong pilot, launched late last year by Puerto Rico’s utility Luma Energy, will pull power from up to 6,500 households during energy shortages. It is part of a transformational effort to modernize a deteriorating grid and transition to clean energy,” explains Gabriela Aoun Angueira in a Grist article republished in Next City.

The system utilizes “virtual power plants,” or VPPs, which can include home batteries, heat pumps, or water heaters that can contribute to the grid in an emergency. “Virtual power plants, or VPPs, are networks of distributed energy resources — like home batteries, electric water heaters, or heat pumps — that can help the grid.” The program connects batteries from household rooftop solar panels to the grid, providing an alternate power source when other energy sources go offline. 

“The Department of Energy is promoting them as a way of addressing the anticipated growth in energy demand in the coming years.” Households that contribute can decide how much energy to keep in their reserve and get paid to let the rest supplement the grid when needed.

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