Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 10 News List

South Australia eager to create largest virtual power plant using Tesla systems


The state of South Australia plans to roll out solar panels and Tesla Inc batteries to at least 50,000 homes to form what the state government said will be the world’s largest virtual power plant.

Beginning with a trial at 1,100 public housing properties, 5-kilowatt solar panels and 13.5-kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries are to be installed free of charge and financed through electricity sales, the state government said on Sunday, ahead of a state election next month.

This will be expanded to another 24,000 public housing properties and then a similar deal will be offered to all South Australian households, with a plan for at least 50,000 to participate in the next four years, it said.

Once completed, the virtual power facility could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant, Tesla said in a statement.

“Tesla is gaining a reputation here for getting things done,” said Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, a Melbourne-based think tank. “If South Australia can sort through the funding and technical side of this project, then it’s worth doing because we’ll learn a lot more about rolling out distributed solar and batteries at scale.”

Tesla last year built the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery system to support South Australia’s blackout-plagued power grid.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a bet on Twitter that Tesla could install a 100-megawatt (MW) storage facility in the Australian outback within 100 days or it would be free — and made good on his pledge to be finished by summer.

Australia, one of the world’s biggest users of rooftop solar panels, last year likely added the most new capacity on record as electricity users sought to ease escalating power bills.

While subsidies and generous feed-in tariffs helped boost growth earlier this decade, last year’s gains were driven by users seeking to sidestep a surge in the cost of electricity and a push by vendors into the commercial sector, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said.

South Australia, which is to hold an election on March 17, suffered a state-wide blackout in 2016 when storms caused a transmission failure. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed the power cut on the state’s rapid take-up of renewable power.

Solar and wind make up about 40 percent of South Australia’s power generation, the highest of any mainland Australian state.

“What we’re doing is effectively putting an extra power plant into the South Australian energy market and the extra competition drives down prices for everyone,” state Premier Jay Weatherill said.

“So we’re teaming up with one of the world’s great technology companies, Tesla. We have demonstrated that we lead the world in renewable energy: the world’s largest battery, the world’s largest solar thermal plant, now the world’s largest virtual power plant,” Weatherill said.

Rooftop solar panels will account for as much as 24 percent of Australia’s electricity by 2040, BNEF said in its 2017 New Energy Outlook.

When combined with small-scale batteries and demand-response initiatives, up to 45 percent of the country’s total power capacity will be located on owners’ properties — known as behind-the-meter-capacity — by 2040, it said.

Weatherill on Sunday cited analysis by Frontier Economics as showing that the 250MW of electricity generated by the 50,000 homes was expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30 percent.

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