Siemens introduces virtual power plant service platform

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Siemens Finland has created a new business to expand its virtual power plant activity: Vibeco (Virtual Buildings Ecosystem).

The heart of the virtual power plant is a software platform, operated by Siemens, that intelligently balances electrical loads from buildings that have been connected in a microgrid, incorporating renewable energy and energy storage.

The new virtual power plant (VPP) service platform – a digitised demand-response system – makes it possible to combine the small electrical loads of buildings or industrial sites, so that building operators can sell energy back to the reserve market, with the ultimate goal to increase the flexibility of the electricity market as a whole.

“We are shaping a new market at the grid edge with this technology,” explained Cedrik Neike, chief executive officer, Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “Together with the State of Finland, we are pioneering a model for decentralised energy systems to benefit utilities, business and society. The complexity of balancing loads across buildings, the grid and even with eMobility infrastructure requires deep domain expertise in the demand and supply areas.” 

The VPP service helps balance power consumption, to decrease the need for reserve power and, consequently, cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The Finnish national grid operator, Fingrid, compensates property owners when the VPP feeds energy into the public grid. Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is providing a grant of 8.4 million euros for the required technology investments.

Siemens already has two pilot customers for its VPP approach: Finnish Railways will connect the Helsinki Central Station as well as two train depots in a microgrid to create a virtual power plant.

“Renewable energy is challenging the entire energy system. We want to prepare for these changes now,” says Juha Antti Juutinen, director of real estate at Finnish Railways.

Lappeenranta, a city of 75,000 inhabitants close to the Russian border, will kick off with nine public buildings, scaling up to connect 50 more buildings to a city microgrid.

“The virtual power plant service decreases the environmental impact of the city and provides additional income,” says Markku Mäki-Hokkonen, development manager of the City of Lappeenranta.

Siemens’ VPP platform leverages the company’s energy optimisation project at Sello shopping mall, a property of 100.000 m2 space located in the suburbs of Helsinki. Sello’s microgrid combines energy efficiency, storage, optimisation of peak loads, and its own electricity production. In addition, supplying extra energy to the reserve market has led to annual income of around 650,000 euros annually for the Sello property owners.