MGK Editor Take IV: Ergo, All That and Microgrids v. VPPs

Aug. 30, 2023
Microgrids and virtual power plants are like flip sides of the same coin. Distributed energy resources are often the same, but the executions are very different.

As a wordsmith wanna-be with a keen interest in truisms and idioms, I often get sidetracked by searches for fascinating phrases and clauses. Some of these are the proverbial ergos and all but not all’s –

“The products are well made; ergo, they rarely break.” “All microgrids employ distributed energy resources, but not all DERS are microgrids.”

Ergo, I clumsily make my point. In today’s Microgrid Knowledge newsletter, we offer two stories about virtual power plant pilot projects. One, by yours truly, is focused on San Diego Gas & Electric’s summertime VPP to help offset peak demand challenges. The VPP’s software oversees aggregation of DERs such as batteries and other devices, pulling a precise amount of power from them and sending it into the main grid to help when the gap between generation and load is too tight.

Elsewhere, Kathy Hitchens writes about VPPs approved for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' grid. The Lone Star State likes to think of itself as a “whole other country,” and even its grid set-up is unique in the U.S. Texas faces extreme weather often and also leads the nation in wind energy output, which is wonderful except when…Let’s just say that all wind turns turbines, but not all wind blows all the time.

Microgrids and virtual power plants are like flip sides of the same coin. They both involve DERs and provide energy resiliency opportunities. Microgrids are made up of on-site physical assets and are designed to operate independently should the grid go down. VPPs utilize DERs that are often spread out among many sites and they provide power to the grid when it’s facing a danger point. Ergo they are similar, but not all the same.

What microgrids and virtual power plants share is a huge potential in our now and future energy transition. The centralized grid desperately needs these decentralized assets to help it stay functional as electrification accelerates its hold on the economy and infrastructure. We hope to see content sessions on VPPs submitted in our Call for Speakers, now open for the Microgrid 2024 Conference happening April 22-24 at the Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore.

Microgrids and VPPs are one, but they’re not the same. They can carry each other and the power sector for decades to come.

– Rod Walton, Microgrid Knowledge Managing Editor

(Editor's Note: This piece was first posted as an introduction to the latest Microgrid Knowledge Newsletter. The MGK free newsletter ran three times a week with the latest in industry coverage and insights. 

About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.

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