One incentive for buying an electric vehicle is the potential to make money by charging or discharging at certain times. This seemingly simple task for EV owners could create a more resilient grid and reduce the need for additional power plants as U.S. roads see more EVs.
A physical power plant is easy to visualize — smokestacks, transmission lines, concrete cylinder buildings. A virtual power plant, generated in part by EV owners, is more of a dot map. It's an aggregation of energy resources to produce energy equivalent to that of a physical power plant.
Orchestrated together, thousands of EVs and household electronics "can act just like a large-scale power plant and provide the same kinds of services to the grid as large-scale power plants we're familiar with can provide," said Mark Dyson, a managing director with the carbon-free electricity program at RMI, a nonprofit focused on accelerating the global energy transformation.
The idea behind a virtual power plant consists of pooling together neighboring distributed energy resources, such as EVs, to create a grid power source. The cars charge up at off-peak times, storing electrons that can be routed back to the grid during electricity demand spikes.