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Top 10 lessons so far from Soleil Lofts, a virtual power plant pioneer in the U.S.

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Emily Newton's picture
Editor-In-Chief, Revolutionized Magazine

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. She enjoys writing articles in the energy industry as well as other industrial sectors.

  • Member since 2020
  • 44 items added with 37,252 views
  • May 25, 2023

Soleil Lofts opened in 2019, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to the yoga studio, dog park, swimming pools and basketball court, the luxury apartment complex features something truly unique — every unit has a seven-foot-tall battery in the living room. The country’s largest virtual power plant gets almost all its energy from the sun.

In addition to generating and using most of its electricity via solar panels, Soleil Lofts stands out by fostering an uncharacteristic partnership between a utility and a solar company. Here are the most important takeaways from this project.

1. Collaborative Efforts Benefit Everyone

The global solar energy market was worth $422 billion as of 2022. That number will continue to grow as the population expands, people look to reduce their carbon footprint and traditional energy sources become more expensive. The world is ready for green energy.

Although renewable energy developments often threaten utility companies, Auric Energy and Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) teamed up to create the luxury apartment complex. RMP set aside funds for the development process and currently manages the battery system, and it has expressed an interest in building more renewable energy projects.

This type of collaboration will be crucial for expanding the reach of green energy in the future. It will take careful planning and communication between developers, utility companies, storage companies, contractors and solar installers to create residential buildings that generate their own power consistently.

2. A Virtual Power Plant Can Be Prime Real Estate

The phrase “power plant” may conjure images of an industrial, uninhabitable site, but a virtual power plant (VPP) can generate energy and provide a luxurious living environment. A VPP combines multiple energy sources from different locations to create an independent energy grid. Soleil Lofts shows that a self-powered, all-electric apartment complex is more than just possible — it’s desirable.

3. Local Solar Energy Is Feasible

With proper planning and coordination, VPPs could power residences worldwide. The Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit will provide 10% bonuses for U.S. projects in low-income communities, energy communities and those that meet specific manufacturing requirements.

Although it’s easiest to create them from scratch, developers can also integrate renewable energy into existing buildings, outfitting homes with solar panels and electric appliances. Off-grid, local energy would reduce many countries’ reliance on foreign oil and gas.

4. VPPs May Benefit Some Locations More

Virtual power plants will benefit the local environment and economy wherever they're built. But some locations, like Herriman, Utah — the birthplace of Soleil Lofts — benefit enormously from green technology. Situated in a mountain valley, Herriman is prone to basking in its own emissions, which can’t easily escape and can potentially become smog. This problem made it the perfect place to build a VPP. Congested urban areas or geographically isolated towns could see the most benefits from generating solar power.

5. Green Energy Can Be Aesthetically Pleasing

Far from being unsightly, the batteries in the luxury apartment complex blend seamlessly into the living room’s sleek, modern look. Additionally, flat rooftops hide the solar panels from public view, allaying complaints from people who prefer a more traditional exterior.

6. VPPs Relieve Stress on the Grid

By generating their own power, VPPs alleviate the burden on the main electric grid. They use cloud-based software to distribute power from independent energy sources during peak load times and the utility company can access the battery systems.

At Soleil Lofts, RMP can deploy up to half of the combined community battery power to relieve stress on the main grid. When people come home and charge their cars, the apartment complex has stored sunlight in its batteries to address the increased energy need.

7. VPPs Provide Backup Power

In the event of a power outage, residents can simply switch to backup storage to power their homes. The batteries can run anything in the apartment complex. Additionally, the sun continuously charges the backup storage system, so even an extended grid power outage won’t affect the building.

8. Residents Will Have Lower Electric Bills

One of the biggest benefits that draw people to Soleil Lofts is the lower utility bills. In addition to solar power, all apartments feature energy-efficient appliances, allowing people to cut down on their electricity use even further. The solar batteries store power when demand is low and tap into it during peak demand periods, making it easy to manage energy use.

9. VPPs Will Likely Catch On

Battery and solar panel prices continue to fall. The environmental and financial benefits will likely lead to an uptick in VPPs worldwide as developers look to reduce their carbon footprint, save money and attract eco-conscious tenants.

One study found 70% of Gen Z customers say a brand’s environmental choices heavily influence their purchasing decisions. It’s more important than ever for developers to go green.

10. Everyday Living Could Tackle Climate Change

The most significant benefit of VPPs is people don’t have to think about saving energy or reducing emissions — simply living in a VPP is an environmentally friendly choice. Every day, people can help tackle climate change by using solar panels, on-site electric car chargers and low-energy appliances. If the VPP trend continues, tenants and homeowners will play a massive role in helping the world go green.

People can also see the solar battery in their homes and feel connected to the renewable energy transition. Most people are happy to feel like they’re making a difference. As long as the price is reasonable, the opportunity to contribute to a better future is a positive selling point for prospective tenants.

The Future of Solar Buildings

A virtual power plant combines multiple independent energy sources into one electrical network. Soleil Lofts is essentially a decentralized power plant and apartment complex rolled into one. In addition to being good for the planet, its solar generation system benefits residents and owners by lowering energy bills, making it an attractive building model for future developers. There are surely more to come on the horizon.



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