Using virtual power plants to integrate renewable energy resources and demand in remote communities

Project lead: Heriot-Watt University

Award amount: £12,636

Area: Argyll and Bute

View the project report



The overall vision of the project is to provide better integration of renewable resources in places with large renewable generation, but limited transmission capacity. To achieve this, we planning to explore the concept of virtual power plants, that group together several resources, local storage, as well as consumers which are incentivised to use renewable energy when it is locally produced.


Project Summary

This project aims to explore how renewable energy sources (in particular, wind, tidal and hydro energy) could be better integrated into local electricity grids, using the case study of island communities in Scotland. Such locations often have a very high renewable penetration, but a "weak grid", i.e. limited transmission/distribution capacity to transport the renewable energy being generated elsewhere. In our proposal, we explore what types of mix of renewable energy resources should be used, such as to maximise capacity utilisation, while minimizing risks of exceeding the distribution network constraints.

A novel concept that could be useful in addressing this challenge is the concept of virtual power plants. Intuitively defined a virtual power plant is a coalition of small energy producers (typically, small renewable energy resources, such as wind turbines, solar panels etc.) that, together, can provide the grid with a generation profile that has a similar size and reliability as a conventional power plant. Such a virtual power plant could then be formed following existing physical transmission constraints, and different sources could be added as capacity allows.