Distributed Energy

A Win-Win-Win Solution for DER Owners, the Power Grid, and the Environment

New distributed energy resources (DERs) are being added to the power grid every day. However, DERs don’t automatically provide owners with the greatest value possible. In many cases, that requires the help of an aggregator, that is, a company that specializes in managing DERs owned by a pool of clients and optimizing performance of the overall system based on real-time signals coming from the wholesale power markets.

“Wholesale electricity markets need grid services from distributed energy resources. We connect those underutilized distributed energy resources—typically behind customer meters—to those wholesale power markets to orchestrate and monetize those resources to deliver reliable, cost-effective, and clean energy,” Gregg Dixon, co-founder and CEO of Voltus, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast.

Voltus’ customers and grid services partners generate cash by allowing Voltus to maximize the market value of their flexible load, distributed generation, energy storage, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle resources. “Voltus is to the electricity industry what Airbnb is to the real estate market in the sense that Airbnb connects under-utilized apartments or homes to buyers who want to make use of those under-utilized assets, and Voltus does that for the electricity grid,” Dixon explained.

Dixon said the core of Voltus’ business tends to be commercial and industrial energy consumers—large energy users that have various types of DERs installed at their facilities. “They could have solar plus storage at a facility. They could have on-site generation at a facility, like perhaps a data center or a hospital. They could have the ability to curtail electricity for certain periods of time—otherwise known as demand response—like, say, a cold storage facility. They could have electric vehicle charging where they can either inject that power back into the grid, say, with public transit fleets, or simply curtailing charging at various locations. We can essentially aggregate anything, whether it’s an electric vehicle in a homeowner’s garage or it’s a steel mill at an industrial campus,” he said.

“We essentially operate a virtual power plant, aggregating the various forms of distributed energy resources,” said Dixon. Notably, Voltus’ software platform is unique, according to Dixon, in that it is integrated fully into all nine U.S. and Canadian wholesale power markets.

In the end, it all comes down to economics. “The market is the final arbiter,” he said. Every technology has different operating constraints, including the economics by which they are dispatched. Battery storage, thermal storage, solar panels, wind turbines, demand response, and on-site backup generators all provide certain benefits, but they also have limitations. “Each of those DERs has operating constraints that are best addressed through a software platform that can orchestrate it all,” Dixon said.

Still, everybody wins when DERs are optimized. “We’re driving the economics of the grid down while driving resilience up and making the grid cleaner. It’s the proverbial win, win, win,” said Dixon.

To hear the full interview, which includes additional discussion about wholesale power markets; the benefits DERs provide to big-box stores, including an example involving Walmart; an example from the Western Energy Imbalance market; and more, listen to The POWER Podcast. Click on the SoundCloud player below to listen in your browser now or use the following links to reach the show page on your favorite podcast platform:

For more power podcasts, visit The POWER Podcast archives.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article