Limerick company puts power in the hands of electricity consumers

VIOTAS CEO, Paddy Finn.

A LIMERICK company is enabling its customers to provide twice the amount of power as the Ardnacrusha power station, without ever having built a physical power plant.

Viotas, a virtual power plant, uses electricity companies to help balance the power system in Ireland as the country moves more towards renewable energy.

Viotas was set up in Limerick 10 years ago by five University of Limerick graduates, and has become one of the biggest power producers in the country.

Speaking to the Limerick Post, Paddy Finn, Viotas CEO, explained how the company works.

“Viotas is a virtual power plant that uses electricity customers to help to balance the power system in the same way power stations normally would,” said Mr Finn.

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“When the power grid used to be run by all large power plants, you could turn those up and down at any point in time to match electricity demand. But when you bring a lot of renewables like wind and solar onto the system, you can’t just turn up the wind or turn up the sun.”

“What we do is provide that balance for electricity customers where we can remotely turn up and down the amount of consumption from large electricity customers to balance the grid instead,” Paddy said.

This then enables companies to get paid for the electricity that they supply back to the grid, he explains.

Having this backup system, according to the CEO, means that the energy grid can rely more on renewable forms of energy, rather than having to keep more fossil fuel plants working to produce electricity.

“The power grid every day can use more renewable energy because this is there in the wings helping it if it needs to be balanced quickly,” Mr Finn told the Limerick Post.

Viotas was founded in 2013 by Mr Finn and his business partner Duncan O’Toole. The pair made the move after Mr Finn completed his PhD at the University of Limerick.

The UL graduate was researching how to provide the services Viotas now provides across the world, when he realised that Ireland would need these services first.

“We hired initially three graduates from UL and built out from there. So there was myself and three others sitting in this three-metre by three-metre office,” Paddy explained,

“I often joke that we wouldn’t have been classed as free-range chickens we had so little space,” he said.

Now, joining the company’s founding offices in Castletroy, Viotas has expanded to hold offices in Dublin, Krakow, Sydney, and Melbourne, among other locations.

Despite being 10 years in business this year, the Viotas CEO says that there is a lot left for the company to achieve, especially in the Irish market.

“In Ireland, we really feel like, despite where we are at the moment, we’ve barely left the starting blocks. If this was a sprint race, we feel like we’re barely a metre and a half into the sprint.”

“We feel that there’s considerable opportunity to grow in Ireland.

“We’ll continue to build teams abroad, and support them very heavily from Ireland, while simultaneously continuing to build our teams in Ireland to support that international expansion,” the CEO concluded.