Each house can automatically send electricity to others that need it.
In Basalt, Colorado, a new housing development is testing out a new way to distribute electricity.
Instead of relying on a plant somewhere to dole out electricity to their homes, residents of the Basalt Vista development are relying on an experimental, virtual power plant, Wired reports. Each house generates clean energy for the neighborhood through solar panels and stores it for later in battery packs — a potential example of a more sustainable energy infrastructure.
Holy Cross Energy, a member-owned utility company in the area, helped add an internet-connected device to each Basalt Vita home that controls the flow of electricity within the local grid, as well as the larger grid linked to a regional power plant, if needed.
"We don’t have to deal with any of the machinery," resident Katela Moran Escobar told Wired. "The house works all by itself."
Typically, a power plant will generate electricity and send it out to the region. But because it does so in real-time, its operators need to predict how much the area will need, often resulting in a wasted surplus. That means sunk cost and, if the plant burns fossil fuels, needless environmental destruction.
"Living in an affordable house with net zero energy use is great for the environment and our finances," Escobar told Wired. "I hope this model is replicable in other places."
READ MORE: The Power Plant of the Future Is Right in Your Home [Wired]
More on virtual power plants: China Is Building Its First Huge Battery Storage Facility