Update on Virtual Power Plant Under ‘Construction’ in Virginia

March 31, 2014
Here’s an update on a virtual power plant being ‘built’ by the Local Energy Alliance Program, a non-profit energy services company based in Charlottesville, VA. LEAP has structured an innovative way to launch the project through a utility partnership.

Cynthia Adams, LEAP

Here’s the latest about a plan underway in Virginia to build a virtual power plant, the most read story on EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com in 2013.

The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), a non-profit energy services company based in Charlottesville, VA, has structured an innovative way to launch the virtual or ‘community’ power plant through a utility partnership.

A conventional power plant fills a need for energy by generating electricity. In contrast, a virtual power plant meets the need by saving energy. So if a region needs 100 MW, the virtual power plant would install energy efficiency measures in homes or businesses until the need for the 100 MW no longer exists.

Virtual power plants face a couple of roadblocks. First, how do you convince building owners to save energy? And second, how do you fund the effort?

LEAP has now completed energy efficiency work in about 900 homes under an interesting model that leverages its non-profit status and taps into an existing utility program.

The organization is acting as a non-profit contractor for Dominion Virginia Power’s Home Energy Checkup program. This allows LEAP to use utility rebates to help fund its effort.

As a non-profit, LEAP is able to get word out in the community about Dominion’s program by talking to homeowner groups or engaging in other communication efforts that would be difficult for a private contractor to do. LEAP then starts the homeowner on the path toward home energy improvement. This approach has allowed LEAP to complete hundreds of projects “in matter of months,” Adams said.

The organization conducts preliminary home energy checkups, conducting walk-throughs to determine energy savings opportunities. It then makes some basic improvements and advises homeowners on how to take the next step through deeper upgrades with private contractors. The organization, in essence, is spearheading a market transformation.

“We have figured out a market-based way to fund creation of the infrastructure,” said Cynthia Adams, LEAP executive director. “We create the nodes that create the network by having these starter conversations.”

We’ll keep tracking the progress of this interesting effort, so check back here for news. Or subscribe to Energy Efficiency Market’s free newsletterand we’ll deliver the latest updates directly to your mailbox.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

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