Audi is conducting a trial of what the automaker calls a “virtual power plant.” It's a system where thousands of individual energy sources, typically homes with solar panels, can be connected so that energy can flow where it's needed.
In the trial, households with solar panels and battery storage systems located in Audi's home of Ingolstadt, Germany are all connected via software designed to distibute the collected energy intelligently among the households.
Distributing the energy is done via the existing power grid using the software, which was developed by Swiss startup Ampard. The software distributes the energy based on demand from households, whether it be for powering a home or charging up an electric car. It's something that's already done at major cities using energy generated at power plants, but this is the first time it's being done with energy generated at individual homes.
The result is balancing energy to those households in the network. In other words, the network accounts for the fluctuations between the amount of energy generated and the amount actually used. And because there's less reliance on energy from outside the network, the households' energy costs are reduced.
“We are playing a pioneering role with the prequalification of the balancing-power market—enabling producers to feed power into the grid, as part of the pilot project,” Head of Sustainable Product Concepts at Audi Hagen Seifert said in a statement. “That is now for the first time also possible down at the level of individual households.”
Development of the virtual power plant is just one measure Audi is taking as it gears up for the launch of volume electric cars. The automaker has also built wind farms, with the energy from these being fed into the existing grid but also to create synthetic fuels.