Tesla has announced the Virtual Power Plant, a program that allows Powerwall owners to send energy back into the California electric grid during emergencies—of which there may be many this summer. Those who sign up will not be compensated by Tesla, though they will be compensated by the electric company if they’re on a net metering plan.
Record high temperatures and an extended drought have greatly increased the power demand in California. In order to stabilize the grid, California may need to enforce rolling power outages during the hottest days of the summer and increase its dependence on fossil fuel plants. Those who sign up with Tesla’s Virtual Power Plant can help avoid these scenarios without jeopardizing the energy security of Powerwall owners.
A few hours prior to an event, you will receive a push notification informing you of event times. Depending on the forecasted severity of the event, your Powerwall may prioritize charging from your solar system in advance of the event to help shift your home’s grid use to earlier in the day. If Powerwall fully charges before an event, your solar system will resume powering your home and export any excess power to the grid.
Tesla says that you can adjust the amount of power that leaves your home at any time, even during a Virtual Power Plant event. Doing so will leave a “reserve” of energy in your Powerwall, which could ensure your power security in the event of an emergency.
California residents who own Powerwall and solar panels are eligible to join the Virtual Power Plant, so long as they are customers of PG&E, SDG&E or SCE. Enrollment requires the latest version of the Tesla app (3.10.14) and a new Powerwall firmware which will roll out soon. To sign up, open your Tesla app and switch to your home, open Settings, and select Tesla Virtual Power Plant.
The Virtual Power Plant will launch as a beta, though its unclear what will change in the future. Tesla says that it’s looking into methods for compensating participants, and the company may expand the program outside California in the future.