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Virtual Batteries

Investigating building infrastructure for providing energy storage

Virtual Batteries

PNNL and its partners are investigating lowest-cost delivery of grid services using existing building infrastructure as energy storage assets. While physical grid-scale energy storage technologies are rapidly improving, they still require considerable capital investment.

Existing residential and commercial building infrastructure, such as water heaters and air conditioning systems, have potential to serve as distributed "virtual storage" at a much lower first cost. This project is identifying, quantifying, and assessing the difficulty of controlling these "behind the meter" energy storage assets to complement grid-scale physical energy storage systems—giving electricity providers the ability to compare and deploy their preferred options.

Products under development include flexibility screening tools that help building owners and utilities quantify the potential of virtual storage resources to provide grid services, as well as decision-support tools for grid operators and building owners to evaluate investments for using such storage resources. In addition, the team is implementing control applications in the PNNL-developed VOLTTRON™ platform and conducting tests in realistic environments to prove that these virtual storage resources can complement physical storage systems.

The benefits of deploying these capabilities included increased grid resiliency and flexibility as well as improved penetration of low-cost renewable energy sources into the grid.

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