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POWER.HOUSE virtual power plant delivers more than just outage protection

Earlier this month Alectra Inc., with the support of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), announced the completion of a feasibility study for mass adoption of the utility’s residential solar storage pilot, POWER.HOUSE, in southern York Region. The feasibility study focused on analyzing costs, benefits, technical capabilities, and key considerations associated with aggregating a large-scale fleet of solar storage assets, known as a virtual power plant, to deliver both customer and grid value.

Julian c., a POWER.HOUSE pilot participant and Alectra Utilities customer, tells us how the program delivers more than just outage protection for his family.

About eighteen months ago, while getting ready to go out with my wife and our two small children, I noticed a brochure stuck to my windshield. The paper was a recruitment piece for the POWER.HOUSE pilot program from my local electricity company, featuring opportunities to save money, protect against outages and generate our own power.

While these three opportunities were certainly attractive, I immediately resonated with a fourth – sustainability. My family and I are very conscious of our impact on the environment, it’s a part of me that I try to incorporate it into my everyday life, and it is something my wife and I try to instill in our children.

Like most people, we can’t afford a Tesla or to go completely off the grid and we don’t have the ability to use geothermal. POWER.HOUSE seemed like a great opportunity to blend our views on sustainability with how we use energy.

I immediately called to sign up. It’s a great feeling to be part of a pilot program, and there are benefits to being a pioneer of something. In this case, I was provided with the opportunity to be a part of something leading edge, with no risk – we paid an upfront participation fee, with a guaranteed five-year return. But the money was not what drove me to participate; it was the chance to further teach my children about sustainability.

A few months after signing up for the POWER.HOUSE pilot program, PowerStream and its partners installed solar panels and a state of the art lithium ion battery storage system in my home, providing my family with the opportunity to autonomously generate our own clean energy for free (aside from the upfront fees) and use this energy to provide power to the critical circuits within our home. We were finally really doing our part in the green movement.

Last summer, we had the opportunity to really test the system and its ability to protect against outages. To our surprise, we returned home from work one evening to find our garage door opener, which is not considered a critical circuit, not working; a neighbour came by to tell us a car hit a nearby transformer and most of the neighbourhood was without power. We went inside to check if the critical circuits connected to POWER.HOUSE were working, and they were. While our neighbours sat in the dark, we were able to feed our children using the stove and give them warm baths (our water heater is connected as a critical circuit), and even let them watch TV before bed. Once all our chores were done, we invited the neighbours over for some ice cold beer while they waited for their power to be restored!

POWER.HOUSE has certainly offered a new kind of welcomed convenience in our home. I’ve also noticed a big difference in my dependence on the traditional grid. Overall, I’m offsetting about 53% of the energy I consume. Although hydro prices are increasing and we had a hotter than normal summer in 2016, I’ve even managed to save approximately $150 per month on my bill by using the clean energy I produce right on my roof – that’s a savings of 60%!

These are great energy savings that support our initial reason for signing up, to do our share for the environment. Our kids are even paying attention; while they’re still too young to understand consumption or financial savings, they understand the system. Our six-year-old daughter was learning about different ways to source power, and without asking us for help she was able to explain to her class that she has solar panels on her roof that allow her to use power when others cannot. A big parenting win for my wife and me.

At the end of the day, I have no regrets signing up for this pilot program; it’s nice to be a part of something so forward thinking. This is an innovative initiative that is like no other in Ontario; in fact, I know my friends and neighbours are a little bit more than jealous. POWER.HOUSE is the future of energy; I look forward to seeing this program expanded in the near future for the benefit of others and the planet we love.