Soleil Lofts' Virtual Power Plant: What You Need to Know | EnergySage (2022)

In August 2019, the solar and storage industries took a giant leap forward with the introduction of the Soleil Lofts virtual power plant project. The apartment complex, which lies just south of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a unique, first-of-its-kind collaboration between a building developer, an energy storage company, a major utility and a local solar installation company. To learn how the Soleil Lofts project came together, and to get a feel for the lessons learned during the process, EnergySage sat down with Jess Phillips, the CEO and founder of Auric Energy, the solar and energy storage developer responsible for the project.


The need for the Soleil Lofts

In Salt Lake City, there’s a large air pollution problem as a result of the geography of the region. The same inversion that helps propel blue-bird days in the ski mountains a short drive from downtown ultimately envelops the valley the city sits in, trapping air pollution from all sorts of industrial processes–including electricity generation. At the same time, the population of the city is increasing as more companies are moving to the area and drawing new workers.

A shortage of housing options and increasing air pollution presented a question and an opportunity: how do you build additional space to meet the housing demand without placing additional stress on the energy grid and, as a result, exacerbating the existing air pollution issues in the region?

This is where the idea for the Soleil Lofts came together: the goal was to create an off-grid community capable of meeting as much of its own electrical needs as possible with renewable energy produced on-site. While this type of development had been pioneered at the neighborhood level in Europe, and was under development in parts of the US (such as a project in Arizona), the Soleil Lofts development promised to bring solar-plus-storage technology to an apartment development, offering an opportunity for renters to directly benefit from solar.

(Video) Soleil Lofts: The Largest Solar+Storage Virtual Power Plant in the Country (2.12.20)

What’s included in the final product?

The resulting properties are truly impressive: the project consists of 5.3 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity across over 12,000 solar panels, 12.8 MW of energy storage capacity including batteries in each of the 600 apartments, 150 electric vehicle car chargers and 73 solar carport structures. The apartments are all-electric (i.e., no gas needed for heating or cooking), and the solar panels can generate enough power to cover 80 percent of the development’s electrical needs.

Residents moving in receive the benefits of solar in a couple of key ways. Importantly, their electric utility bills should be 10-20 percent less than if they lived in non-solar powered apartments of a similar size. Next, they’re able to participate in the solar industry with flexibility, not needing to invest the cash upfront to install a system on their property and without needing to find a new subscriber for a community solar-type commitment if they move. And, finally, with the energy storage systems in the heart of their apartment, residents of Soleil Lofts can feel connected to the renewable energy transition every day, watching the battery recharge from the sun, or hearing it hum as it kicks on to provide power when needed.

In fact, according to Auric Energy, these factors have combined to mean that the people renting from the Soleil Lofts are “regular, everyday people that just want to do something about the climate change issue.” Initial signs indicate that the opportunity to contribute to the solution for the same cost as living elsewhere is a very large selling point.

(Video) Soleil Lofts, the First All-Electric Apartment Community with a VPP [CC on]

How to choose partners for a Soleil Lofts-type project

Auric Energy is very well versed in the solar industry: based in Salt Lake City, and with regional offices in five cities, Auric Energy employs 230 people installing both residential and commercial systems nationwide. As of 2019, the company has installed over 7,000 residential systems and nearly 200 commercial systems over ten years in business.

In fact, a large part of what made the Soleil Lofts project work is Auric Energy’s pre-existing relationship with Utah real estate developer Dell Loy Hansen, Founder and CEO of Wasatch Commercial Properties and owner of Real Salt Lake, with whom Auric previously partnered to install solar on the training facilities of the local Major League Soccer team.

From there, the question became which solar equipment to install at the Soleil Lofts. For the solar panels, Auric worked with Solaria, who designed a custom, high-powered 430 Watt panel for this apartment complex. An equally, if not more, important partnership required determining which energy storage manufacturer to work with. Given that the developers decided to install individual batteries in each apartment, as opposed to building one, larger centralized storage system, the choice of partner was vital to the success and livability of the apartments.

Ultimately, Auric decided to install sonnen batteries, providing an ecoLinx 20 kW battery in each of the 600 apartments. The decision came down to three key factors: sonnen’s safety record, the ability of the ecoLinx battery to cycle every day for a long period of time, and the aesthetics of the battery, seeing as it is an ever present component in people’s living rooms. Beyond that, sonnen brought not only their expertise from developing similar projects overseas, but also a willingness to collaborate closely on the project by, for instance, tweaking their battery design to include a special fan recognizing the heat and sound concerns that arise with installing batteries in living rooms.

What lessons can be learned from the Soleil Lofts?

At the end of the day, the most important lesson to be learned from the Soleil Lofts development from Auric Energy’s perspective is the fact that this was a collaborative effort that benefited everyone involved. In fact, Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), the local utility, entered the development of the project as eager partners: rather than begrudgingly compromising to allow this project to proceed, RMP committed funds to aid in the development process and implicitly expressing their interest in building more of these type of projects.

At the same time, it’s important to note that projects like the Soleil Lofts don’t come together without vision and persistence. Developers across the country can now see that an all-electric, self-powered apartment complex is possible, and take the next steps to design their own project in their area.

The future of virtual power plant communities

Part of the allure of solar is that the technology allows any individual property owner to become a power producer. Once you add energy storage to the equation, anybody with a solar-plus-storage system can now function as a miniature power plant: creating electricity, and, with the help of storage, calling on that electricity exactly when it’s needed to power the home. When you aggregate multiple solar-plus-storage systems and allow them to work together, you can effectively create a decentralized power plant. Recently, this type of project has been dubbed a “virtual power plant.”

(Video) Soleil Lofts Apartments

The Soleil Lofts project is a perfect example of how the solar industry could continue to evolve into the future: the development is designed explicitly with the ability to power itself in mind, with the goal from the outset to be able to rely as much as possible on locally produced solar energy instead of fossil-fuel fired generation from hundreds of miles away.

However, virtual power plants don’t need to be limited to just new construction developments. Rather, with smart, coordinated planning, most communities in the US could turn into their own clean power producers, balancing local supply and demand, and providing solar power freely and efficiently throughout the neighborhood.

Become your own power producer by installing solar today

While the Soleil Lofts are unique in their scale, scope and vision, the opportunity to power your life with solar is not limited to a select few. In fact, solar is more accessible than ever thanks to great incentives and declining costs. To see how much you could save by powering your home with solar, check out the EnergySage Solar Calculator or register for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive custom solar quotes from companies near you.


FAQs

What are the benefits of a virtual power plant? ›

Benefits of VPPs
  • Utilize weather and load management forecasts.
  • Process real-time and historical data.
  • Price signals from the market during fluctuations throughout the day.
  • Generally provide additional resources to the main grid during peak hours.
Nov 29, 2021

What is a solar PV virtual power plant? ›

A virtual power plant (VPP) is a network of individual distributed energy resources, such as solar PV and batteries that are located in different places. Through aggregation in a VPP, these systems may then be able to participate in trading in the electricity market and providing network services and grid support.

What are some drawbacks of virtual power plants? ›

One downside of a Virtual Power Plant is the lack of control by the owner of the solar and battery system. When you sign up to these plans as you read through the information, it will mention how much power the Virtual Power Plant operator is able to draw at any time.

How does a virtual power plant work? ›

For A VPP to work, it involves using software and communications to make the distributed energy resources visible to a retailer and/or the network. The generating and storage assets can be owned by a central owner (such as an electricity retailer) and located at consumers' sites with the power paid for by the consumer.

How much does a VPP cost? ›

Powerclub/ Power Ledger / Sonnen / Natural Solar. Powerwall for $5,499 (inclusive of home battery scheme subsidy) plus installation costs. $2,550 for a large battery offer over 12 months or $1,275 small battery offer over 6 months (Through VPP extra-access credits paid at $7 per day).

What is the difference between microgrid and Virtual Power Plant? ›

While a microgrid is often considered a single site, a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is the combination of multiple sites, technologies and assets which are integrated together using specialised software and hardware to form a virtual energy network that can be central controlled while maintaining independence.

What is VPP communication? ›

In the VPP concept communication infrastructure enables reliable data exchange between all entities ( Figure 1) in the downstream direction, toward DERs, in the upstream direction, toward TSOs, DSOs or electricity retailers, and the electricity market is essential [7].

What is Tesla virtual power plant? ›

Voluntary Program. Unless Tesla notifies you otherwise, the Tesla Virtual Power Plant is a voluntary program to support the electrical grid when it is stressed. You will not be compensated for participating, including for the electricity to charge your Powerwall or the use of your Powerwall.

What is a virtual battery? ›

The Virtual Battery is designed to emulate older carbon batteries as some effects pedals (such as vintage Fuzz & Wah-Wah pedals) can actually sound better when used with these older higher internal resistance batteries.

What are virtual plants? ›

Virtual plants are computer generated 3D models of plants, also called functional-structural plant models or FSPMs.

What is the difference between VPP and Derms? ›

At a fundamental level, VPPs provide flexible grid services that ARE NOT highly dependent on the specific locations of DER asset. DERMS, on the other hand, provide active and reactive power control for grid services that ARE highly dependent on the specific location of each asset.

What is a virtual power network? ›

A virtual power plant (VPP) is a cloud-based distributed power plant that aggregates the capacities of heterogeneous distributed energy resources (DER) for the purposes of enhancing power generation, as well as trading or selling power on the electricity market.

What is smart grid system? ›

Smart Grid is an Electrical Grid with Automation, Communication and IT systems that can monitor power flows from points of generation to points of consumption (even down to appliances level) and control the power flow or curtail the load to match generation in real time or near real time.

How much does a Virtual Power Plant cost? ›

The $2 per kWh amount is quite significant and reflects just how much value a VPP can add to the grid in case of an emergency event where the grid needs more capacity.

How do I start a VPP? ›

In other words, it's a good idea to perform some basic tasks to make sure that vpp is running as expected.
  1. Step 1: Configure and enable an interface. ...
  2. Step 2: Check the error counters. ...
  3. Step 3: Reset the statistics. ...
  4. Step 4: Check for new statistics. ...
  5. Step 5: Start a packet trace. ...
  6. Step 6: Verify test packets.
Dec 22, 2018

What does VPP stand for solar? ›

Virtual Power Plants (VPP), also referred to as battery aggregation or energy sharing, are the next step for solar energy. They are a way for households to derive more benefits from their solar panel PV and battery systems and drive down their energy costs even further.

What is a demand response program? ›

Demand response is a voluntary PJM program that allows end use customers to reduce their electricity usage during periods of higher power prices. In exchange, end-use (retail) customers are compensated through PJM members known as Curtailment Service Provider for decreasing their electricity use when requested by PJM.

What is a Derms platform? ›

Definition. A distributed energy resources management system (DERMS) is a platform which helps mostly distribution system operators (DSO) manage their grids that are mainly based on distributed energy resources (DER).

What is AGL VPP? ›

A Virtual Power Plant, or VPP for short, is a network of connected solar batteries that can be coordinated like a pop-up power plant. Together, the energy drawn from each battery can provide a large bank of controllable solar energy.

What is a microgrid system? ›

A microgrid is a small-scale power grid that can operate independently or collaboratively with other small power grids. The practice of using microgrids is known as distributed, dispersed, decentralized, district or embedded energy production.

What is VPP business studies? ›

What Is Volumetric Production Payment? A Volumetric Production Payment (VPP) is a type of structured investment that involves the owner of an oil or gas interest selling or borrowing money against a specific volume of production associated with that field or property.

What is Der system? ›

Distributed energy resources are small, modular, energy generation and storage technologies that provide electric capacity or energy where you need it. Typically producing less than 10 megawatts (MW) of power, DER systems can usually be sized to meet your particular needs and installed on site.

What are virtual plants? ›

Virtual plants are computer generated 3D models of plants, also called functional-structural plant models or FSPMs.

What is Tesla virtual power plant? ›

Voluntary Program. Unless Tesla notifies you otherwise, the Tesla Virtual Power Plant is a voluntary program to support the electrical grid when it is stressed. You will not be compensated for participating, including for the electricity to charge your Powerwall or the use of your Powerwall.

What is the difference between microgrid and Virtual Power Plant? ›

While a microgrid is often considered a single site, a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is the combination of multiple sites, technologies and assets which are integrated together using specialised software and hardware to form a virtual energy network that can be central controlled while maintaining independence.

What is the difference between VPP and Derms? ›

At a fundamental level, VPPs provide flexible grid services that ARE NOT highly dependent on the specific locations of DER asset. DERMS, on the other hand, provide active and reactive power control for grid services that ARE highly dependent on the specific location of each asset.

What is a virtual power grid? ›

A Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is a network of decentralized, medium-scale power generating units as well as flexible power consumers and storage systems.

Does a Tesla make your light bill go up? ›

Tesla's generally require around 25 kWh/100 miles. So 1,500 miles is 375 kWh - which adds about $45 to your monthly electricity bill. But this is tremendously variable - some parts of the world have much more expensive electricity - some have cheaper.

How much is a Tesla powerwall? ›

The Tesla Powerwall has a higher price than many other battery systems, but you also get a high storage capacity and power output. The price is calculated based on how many units you order: a single Powerwall sells for $10,500, but two units will cost $17,000 ($8,500 each).

Is Tesla a good solar company? ›

Our Take on Tesla Solar Panels

We gave Tesla a score of 79 out of 100 and found it to be the provider with the best availability, since it can serve homes across all 50 states, unlike many competitors. Tesla offers solar panels with a sleek design that blends into your existing roof.

Videos

1. Soleil Lofts Apartments 1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bathroom Apartment Tour
(Soleil Lofts Apartments - Herriman, UT)
2. Soleil Lofts Tenants 1
(Kendra Reaveley)
3. Discover Soleil Lofts - Utah's Cleanest Apartment Community
(Soleil Lofts Apartments - Herriman, UT)
4. Natural Solar on Channel 9's The Today Show - Battery Blockchain Virtual Power Plant World First
(Natural Solar)
5. Energy Locals profile their company, Peer to Peer trading and South Australian Virtual Power Plant.
(Renew Insights)
6. Soleil Lofts Hard Hat Tour
(Kendra Reaveley)

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