Tesla tapped by S. Australia anew in virtual power plant


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

Beginning with a trial of 1,100 public housing properties, 5kW solar panels and 13.5 kW-hour Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries will be installed free of charge and financed through electricity sales, the state government said yesterday ahead of a state election.

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.

“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,” 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.”

Elon Musk last year built the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery system to support South Australia’s blackout-plagued power grid. Musk made a bet on Twitter that Tesla could install a 100MW 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.

South Australia, which will 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% of its power generation, the highest of any mainland Australian state.

Weatherill cited analysis by Frontier Economics as showing the 250MW plant is expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30%.

“The size of it is the reason why it’s going to be a success,” Weatherill said. “The reason that we can have the world’s largest battery is because we have one of the highest proportions of public housing stock in the nation.”