Virtual power plants are transforming energy. Here’s how. A Belgian holiday resort seems an unlikely place for an energy revolution. Terhills, located in a national park on the Dutch border, was once a coal mine. Today, it is a tourist destination that also points towards the future of energy, as home to one of Europe’s largest virtual power plants – a digital control system connecting energy generators and storage systems that monitors the grid and makes ongoing adjustments to balance, supply and demand. Virtual power plants not only add stability to the grid, they make it more efficient and more sustainable – and they create profit opportunities for businesses. The Terhills site hosts 140 Tesla lithium-ion batteries with a total energy capacity of 18 megawatts. The battery storage there is combined with the energy flexibility of factories and other major energy producers in Belgium to create a 32MW virtual power plant. This represents an “always on” energy capacity the equivalent of 10 wind turbines, which can be made available to the grid at a speed 100 times faster than switching on a traditional gas plant.
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