Virtual Power Plant at District Level: Utilising flexibility in the home

The volatility of renewable energy makes it necessary to bring about a fundamental shift from consumption-oriented power generation to production-optimised consumption. In the research project "Virtual Power Plant", the Wuppertal municipal utility company, together with the University of Wuppertal and the Association "Aufbruch am Arrenberg" e.V., are investigating how this can function at the district level using an incentive-based control system. The project partners are thus addressing one of the central problems of the energy transition.

The expansion of renewable energies is fundamentally changing the demands on the electricity market. Instead of a few large-scale power plants that feed generated electricity into the grids as needed at central points, the electricity input comes from renewable energy sources in quantities and at times that vary greatly depending on the weather and at a large number of decentralised locations. This plus the growing number of households that both purchase electricity from the grid and feed in electricity that they generate themselves from their own renewable energy systems (prosumers) make balancing electricity supply and consumption a challenge.

Engine for progress:

  • Virtual power plant (VPP) at the neighbourhood level
  • Developing an incentive-based control system
  • Integrating a large number of low-output producers, storage facilities and consumers (household level)
  • Improved system integration of renewable energy

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Photo: Bergische Universität Wuppertal

The “Virtual Power Plant” project provides consumers with incentives to consume energy when a large amount of electricity is being fed into the grid.

Virtual power plants offer an opportunity to combine the decentralised structures and manage them collectively. So far, small and medium-sized consumers have not played a part in this. This is where the "Virtual Power Plant" project comes into play. It focuses on low-output, neighbourhood power generation plants and consumers. Instead of being directly controlled by the operator, as is common for plants of larger performance classes, participants will be integrated into a virtual power plant through an incentive-based control concept.

The project partners are initially investigating the available potential in private households and commercial enterprises in the Arrenberg climate community in Wuppertal and which flexibilities can be activated in terms of both feed-in and consumption. The focus is less on automating the household appliances of the test subjects and more on influencing the consumer behaviour of the test subjects themselves. For example, different communication methods and different forms of monetisation will be considered that encourage the end customers to shift their consumption patterns and, for example, wash their laundry when it makes sense for the energy system. The test subjects provide their consumption data and will later align their energy consumption with criteria developed by the researchers.

Better integration of renewable energy

By exploiting flexibility and load transfer potentials, the project aims to make possible the balance between generation and consumption, which is of fundamental importance for the energy system. This is also intended to improve the grid's capacity to absorb renewable energy, improve system integration and optimise the overall efficiency of the power grid through grid-based power distribution. As a result, the project will make an important contribution to the successful implementation of the energy transition and reduce the need for grid expansion due to the geographical proximity of generation and consumption sites. Last but not least, private households will also benefit at the district level by being rewarded for their grid-supporting behaviour and for making a contribution to climate protection even without their own renewable energy generation facilities.

Photo: WSW Energie & Wasser AG

‘We were able to motivate many customers to participate thanks to the support of the Association Aufbruch am Arrenberg e.V. and our partners in the Wuppertal housing industry GWG, EBV, ABG and GMW’.

Alexander Diedrich, Project Manager, WSW Energie & Wasser AG

Partners and sponsors

  • WSW Wuppertaler Stadtwerke GmbH
  • WSW Energie & Wasser AG
  • WSW Netz GmbH
  • Bergische Universität Wuppertal
  • Aufbruch am Arrenberg e.V.
  • Landesregierung NRW