Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Tesla, Australia to turn 50,000 homes into power grid

RENEWABLES:Already home to the world’s biggest battery, South Australia hopes the ‘world’s largest virtual power plant’ will help it avoid a repeat of its 2016 blackout


About 50,000 homes in South Australia are to receive solar panels and Tesla Inc batteries, the state government announced yesterday, in a landmark plan to turn houses into a giant, interconnected power plant.

South Australia is already home to world’s biggest battery in an Elon Musk-driven project to provide electricity for more than 30,000 homes.

The state government has since been looking for more ways — particularly through renewables — to address its energy woes after an “unprecedented” storm caused a state-wide blackout in 2016.

Under a new plan unveiled yesterday, a network of solar panels linked to rechargeable batteries would be provided free to households and financed by the sale of excess electricity generated by the network, the government said.

“My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” state Premier Jay Weatherill said in a statement. “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.”

A trial phase is to begin with 1,100 public housing properties, each supplied with a 5 kilowatt solar panel system Tesla battery.

Following the trial, the systems are to be installed at an additional 24,000 public housing properties before the scheme is opened up to other South Australians over the next four years.

The government is also set to look for an energy retailer to deliver the program to add more competition to the market.

The rollout is to be supported by the state government through a A$2 million (US$1.6 million) grant and a A$30 million loan from a taxpayer renewable technology fund.

The virtual power plant would have 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage, a Tesla statement said.

“At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant,” it added.

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of coal and gas, but the South Australian blackout raised questions about its energy security.

Several aging coal-fired power plants have closed, while strong demand for gas exports and a rise in onshore gas drilling bans have fueled concerns of a looming domestic energy shortage.

More than 60 percent of electricity generation in Australia is from coal, with 14 percent from renewables, government data published in 2016 showed.

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