Swell raises $120M for virtual power plants to link solar and batteries

Almost every company in the rooftop-solar and battery space has at least a few virtual power plant projects underway. VPPs control tens, hundreds or thousands of individual home solar and battery systems to turn their collective energy flexibility into megawatt-scale resources for utilities and the grid today — and potentially gigawatt-scale resources in the years to come.

VPP developer Swell Energy is becoming a major player in key U.S. markets like California and Hawaii, by connecting customers who have or want batteries for their solar-equipped homes or businesses, the companies that make those technologies, and the utilities and energy markets that can pay for the grid value they can provide.

In the process, the Los Angeles–based company has come up with techniques and technologies that CEO Suleman Khan thinks could transform the VPP business model. Those include novel contract and financing structures to reduce the cost and complexity of signing up new customers and technology vendors. They also include underlying software that can balance the need to provide the grid services that utilities have been promised with the need to ensure that customers get what they want — reliable backup battery power and steady payments for participating in a VPP.