VPP preventing blackouts in Puerto Rico


Residential solar installer Sunrun has developed a VPP so Puerto Ricans can contribute energy from their solar-plus-storage systems and stabilize the island’s electrical grid.

Sunrun said that by the start of May, it had enrolled nearly 1,800 customers and more than 2,000 batteries onto its PowerOn Puerto Rico program, which launched in fall 2023.

The figure makes Sunrun the largest participant in Puerto Rico’s Battery Emergency Demand Response Program, which is administered by the island’s electric utility, LUMA, in response to ongoing power shortfalls. When LUMA foresees power supply shortfalls, Sunrun’s battery fleet dispatches stored solar energy from customers’ batteries to stabilize the grid and avoid blackouts and the use of fossil fuel power plants.

Sunrun said its current fleet of batteries on the island provides more than 15 MWh of energy to support LUMA's grid. An average 40% of storage capacity is reserved for personal backup at each customer’s home.

Customers are compensated for their participation, with Sunrun predicting at least an average of $550 per customer. The final level will be dependent on the amount of power sharing events per year, with more compensation if there are more events.

Sunrun and LUMA expect that there will be between 50 and 125 events per year that will require Sunrun’s fleet of enrolled systems to provide on-demand energy. A Sunrun spokesperson told pv magazine the project had been activated several times in the last week alone.

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“LUMA has already called upon Sunrun a dozen times since last fall to activate our virtual power plant, with several of those being emergency events – meaning outages were imminent,” said Sunrun CEO Mary Powell. “The resilience of the people of Puerto Rico is truly remarkable. They consistently step up to help their community by sharing their stored solar energy and improving energy reliability for everyone.”

Puerto Rico moved to build a more distributed energy system following the dismantling of the island’s centralized energy grid in 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Maria. It currently boasts 1.6 GWh of residential-sited batteries.

The island has also tripled its distributed-generation solar capacity in two years, recording 680 MW towards the start of this year. It switched on its largest solar-plus-storage project to date in December 2023.

In February, pv magazine reported on Sunrun’s Peak Power Rewards, a program compensating California-based customers that dispatch power during peak grid demand.

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