Tesla is helping South Australia build what will be the world’s largest virtual power plant

Installation is planned for 50,000 homes across the state over the next four years

Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

The South Australian government will build what it says is the world’s largest virtual power plant by rolling out solar panels and Tesla batteries to at least 50,000 homes. Installation is planned over the next four years, and those households will combine to create the 250MW virtual power plant. Energy generated from the solar panels will be stored in the Tesla batteries, and any excess energy will be fed back to the grid, which will be centrally controlled and provide energy to the rest of the state when required.
In an initial trial, which has already commenced, a 5kW solar panel system and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed in 1,100 public housing properties for free, with the sale of electricity to cover costs. Following this, an additional 24,000 public houses will receive the systems. A wider rollout for private homes is planned in 2019, depending on the success of the trial phases.
Tesla says that, when completed, the virtual power facility could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant. “Powerwall can detect an outage, disconnect from the grid, and automatically restore power to your home in a fraction of a second,” the government’s virtual power plant FAQ section reads. “As long as the battery has storage in it at the time, you will not even notice that the power went out.”
The South Australian government says the virtual power plant can provide 20 percent of the state’s average daily energy requirements. The South Australian government says Tesla will review all properties to determine whether or not they’re able to support the system and participate in the program. Tesla will also build a service hub at Adelaide’s innovation district Tonsley, which will allow technicians to monitor and service the company’s Powerpacks in Hornsdale, the Superchargers installed across the state, and the residential Powerwall installations.
The South Australian government claims the 250MW will cut electricity costs by 30 percent for participating households. About 6,500 people have already registered an expression of interest for the program, and the program may be extended if public interest remains high.
The program will be funded via a AU$2 million grant ($1.59 million USD), and a AU$30 million ($23.8 million USD) loan from a state-funded technology fund. The project has a total value of AU$800 million ($634 million USD), which will also be funded by investors.
Elon Musk built the world’s biggest battery in South Australia to help with the state’s energy woes, which saw a crippling state-wide blackout in September 2016. The event was highly politicized: the federal government blamed the failure of renewable energy to cover usage during peak times, while others said that severe weather causing transmission towers to topple over was to blame. Musk undertook the project after making a promise on Twitter, complete with a 100-day self-imposed deadline which he comfortably beat.
We’ve reached out to Tesla for further comment and will update this post if we hear back.
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