Publications

- May 1, 2019: Vol. 6, Number 5

Shining a light on Los Angeles: Solar company challenges the City of Angels to become a virtual power plant

by Mike Consol

The City of Los Angeles can use residential solar to create a citywide “virtual power plant” using rooftop solar and battery storage on as few as 75,000 homes to replace the fossil fuel plant the city is retiring in pursuit of its goal of running the City of Angels entirely on renewable sources of energy. That is the assessment from a report issued by the solar power company Sunrun.

The report points out that home solar has grown rapidly across California, and by 2030 the city can build a fleet of roughly 150,000 homes and 5,000 apartment buildings with home solar, noting that nearly as much rooftop solar has already been deployed in the territory serviced by San Diego Gas & Electric, along with a rapidly increasing amount of battery storage. Because the cost of advanced batteries has declined rapidly, supporting the rapid growth of energy storage, Los Angeles could achieve the equivalent of a clean energy virtual power plant for almost $60 million less than the cost of building new natural gas plants, says the report.

Sunrun says the plan would provide numerous benefits to the city, including jobs, cleaner air, lower energy costs and more reliable power for communities and businesses. What’s more, building clean energy locally eliminates the need for costly transmission lines to move power into the city and can help strengthen an aging distribution grid — preventing blackouts and providing emergency backup power if outages do occur.

“Across the country, a growing number of utilities and wholesale markets are already incorporating distributed energy resources,” says the report. “By engaging customers to be part of the solution, partnering with clean energy innovators and streamlining permitting and interconnection for local clean energy [the city] can create a more modern, reliable power grid.”

Despite the significant expansion of solar in recent years, the penetration of local rooftop solar in Los Angeles is low relative to other Southern California cities. Los Angeles currently generates about 182 megawatts of residential rooftop solar installed on 36,000 homes, the report says, and that represents only 2.5 percent of the 1.34 million living in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service area.

By way of comparison, the Sunrun report points out that 139,000 homeowners (11 percent) of San Diego Gas & Electric’s 1.25 million residential customers, have adopted solar, creating a total installed capacity of 740 megawatts. Those customers are also rapidly adopting batteries technology as part of their home solar systems. Customers in California’s other utility territories are adopting solar and batteries at nearly the same rates, says the report.

 

Mike Consol (m.consol@irei.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.

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