Energy

Tesla to help roll out world's largest "virtual power plant" in Australia

Tesla to help roll out world's...
The South Australian Government has teamed up with Tesla to roll out the world's largest virtual power plant, which will see over 50,000 homes generating and storing electricity and feeding it into the main grid
The South Australian Government has teamed up with Tesla to roll out the world's largest virtual power plant, which will see over 50,000 homes generating and storing electricity and feeding it into the main grid
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The South Australian Government has teamed up with Tesla to roll out the world's largest virtual power plant, which will see over 50,000 homes generating and storing electricity and feeding it into the main grid
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The South Australian Government has teamed up with Tesla to roll out the world's largest virtual power plant, which will see over 50,000 homes generating and storing electricity and feeding it into the main grid

Last year, Tesla built what is essentially the world's biggest battery in Australia, and now the company is again partnering with the South Australian government to build the world's largest "virtual power plant." By installing solar panels and Tesla Powerwall batteries on thousands of houses, the proposed system would allow homes to generate their own electricity and feed it back into the state's power grid when needed.

Blackouts ravaged the state of South Australia through the summer of 2016, leading the state government to launch a plan to "take charge of the state's energy future." A key part of that plan was to build the world's largest battery system to store energy gathered by South Australia's extensive renewable sources. Tesla took up the challenge to build the facility with a series of Powerpacks, with Elon Musk offering to build it within 100 days or it's free – and meeting the deadline.

Less than a month after the new battery system booted up, it proved its worth when it was able to inject 100 MW into the national grid to compensate for a fault at a major coal-fired plant. The Powerpacks were reportedly able to respond to the shortage in just 140 milliseconds – far, far quicker than the 10 to 15 minutes it would usually take for emergency generators to fire up.

The newly-announced system is also designed to keep the grid stable, by decentralizing electricity generation and storage. Over the next four years, the South Australian government is planning to install 5-kW rooftop solar panel systems coupled to 13.5-kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries in over 50,000 homes.

The panels and batteries will be supplied and installed for free, but participants will still have to pay for the electricity they use, with economics analysis suggesting that participating households will save about 30 percent on their electricity bills. These homes will also be protected from blackouts. If the Powerwall detects a disruption in the grid, it will immediately restore power the house from its own reserves without interruption.

Not only will these allow homes to generate and store their own energy, but they will all come together to form what the government and Tesla are calling the world's largest virtual power plant, with a capacity of 250 MW. Excess electricity from each home will be fed back into the main grid, or can be drawn on in an emergency.

The first trial for the virtual power plant is currently underway, with 1,100 Housing Trust properties receiving the solar panels and Powerwalls at no cost. After that, the systems will be installed at another 24,000 Housing Trust properties, before the offer is opened up to all South Australian households.

The South Australian government outlines the project in the video below.

Source: Government of South Australia

South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant

7 comments
Pupp1
Since all power sources that are dependent upon the weather will occasionally have wide-spread outages, they all need fossil fuel back-ups. But, Australia has made it clear that investing in building or maintaining such a power plant is a dead end, because of their environmental regulations. So, Australia should expect more outages in the future, both because of failures at fossil fuel plants that need maintenance, and when weather doesn't comply with their renewal energy desires.
WolfeSA
@Pupp1, I think u misread the article. The entire focus is on massive battery capacity. Therefore the issue of whether the wind or sun is strong enough is no longer relevant. That old tired argument by the pro-fossil lobby is no longer valid. It hangs around as misinformation or ignorance. It applies of course if the sun doesn't rise, but then we've got bigger problems. :-)
over_there
@wolfSA, have you done the maths on this 50 000 * 10 KWh is 500 MWh, right now sa is using 1650 MWh so this battery will power them for about 20 minutes( but couldnt really because of discharge rate limited to 5 kw) so really it could potentially supply about 1/7th of the power to sa for 2 hours thats not going to make renewables viable and these disapointing numbers would come at a cost of about $500 000 000 + the solar part. There is no misinformation or ignorance against renewables just solid maths. For all south australias talk of renewables it runs on gas. Tasmania runs far more on renewables and uses the only viable energy storage method hydro.
ellerbob
@over_there If you are going to do the math, do it right. You need to account for the 50,000 homes that would then be off the grid. This would obviously affect the current "1650 MWh" grid usage. Sounds like you have some opinion to prove rather that wanting to do "solid maths"
goatman205
What you don't understand is all things move slowly but surely to a solution. The final solution is solar on every roof, with battery backup. Don't forget the electric car in the driveway. They are already doing it in the Netherlands. Japan is doing it with Nissan leafs. The future is not giant batteries, it millions of little batteries scatter all over the place. Elon said himself Australia could be self sufficient and export solar electric. The key to that is, instead of building new fossil plants you built solar plants. Now the roof concept may just surpass that. In AZ, the electric company is fighting buying solar from rooftops, it is threating their monopoly. One community found a way to beat the electric company. They only have one meter, on a cargo holder full of batteries. The houses draw from there, the houses have solar on the roof that feed their house and the cargo battery. If need be the cargo battery can draw from the grid, in most cases it is feeding the grid. They all share the cost of the system, so most of the time, bills are lower than $10.00 a month.
over_there
@ ellerbob, thinkabout that a bit more the houses off the grid ( which they wouldnt be at all ) but less the the houses with the battery storage would directly cancell them selves out there, you can say there battery goes to them it goes to the grid it make no difference to the maths the state is still using the same amount of power. If you want to count the extra solar in the calculations it gets much more complicated again but of course the calculated cost doubles too. The grid will still be using the same power.
ljaques
Search for the fiascos in Hawaii and AZ to see how idiotic power companies can be. BUT, I hope that all power companies plus the US gov't line up to put us in a similar situation. We are far to dangerously reliant on our grid. A couple dozen tangoes could drop 90% of the power in the US overnight, and many parts of it wouldn't be coming back on for weeks, if that quickly. I think what AU is doing is just great, and I hope it turns out well for them and for us. We need widespread adoption of electric cars, modular "pocket" nuclear plants and hydro- electric for base, and massive local solar and local wind for main flux power, all with battery or other backup. Molten salt is one method that is heated by solar during the day and converted to steam overnight. All of that would get us entirely off the imported fossil fuel and considerably reduce our own use of it. It would significantly reduce our danger level from EMP and terrorism against the grid. I think AU is going to be the model to beat for the future. Right on, Elon. Keep the ideas flowing. We all benefit from your genius.