Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Toshiba uses IoT to advance virtual power plants

Steve Rogerson
May 7, 2019



Japanese company Toshiba is advancing virtual power plant (VPP) capabilities with AI and IoT technologies.
 
Everything is going virtual, and the virtual world is now reaching into the field of energy. Power companies that handle the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power are constantly adjusting output levels to meet anticipated consumption, and to maintain a dynamic balance between supply and demand. If those efforts fail, and supply becomes unstable, power outages result.
 
A VPP brings energy management technologies to dispersed energy generation sources. It bundles them together in a network – that's the virtual plant – and applies IoT and AI to aggregating output and controlling their connection to the grid.
 
In combination and managed by a VPP, small, isolated power generation points can be used in load-levelling to absorb excess supply from renewables, and to deliver supply during shortages. Used to realise fine adjustments and no-waste generation, VPPs will also contribute to one of the most pressing concerns, the decarbonisation of society.
 
The capabilities of a VPP extend even further. Used in combination with energy management systems at consumer sites, a VPP can create and support innovative services. For instance, power that is not consumed as a result of incentives on the demand side is seen as having the same value as power that is generated, and is measured as a negawatt. A VPP can stimulate realisation of negawatts, and manage them.
 
In a fully realised market, it will become possible to buy electricity generated from all kinds of power supply sources, including low cost generation by consumers.
 
As the 2020s progress and the new energy supply market grows, VPPs will play the role of managing and using widely distributed power sources. The potential of numerous small-scale generation facilities, widely dispersed in offices, factories and homes, and even electric cars, is immense. In the future, says Toshiba, VPPs will have an indispensable part to play in realising a decarbonised society.