It seems like the South Australian Government really is serious about increasing its constituents’ energy security and affordability. Just a few months after delivering the world’s biggest battery at Hornsdale windfarm using Tesla Powerpack batteries, the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has unveiled plans for the world’s biggest virtual power plant propelled by solar PV and Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries.
The virtual power plant will be a state-wide network of solar panels and battery systems with the capacity to power about 20% of South Australia’s average daily electricity requirements, or about 75,000 homes. The virtual power plant will offer 250MW capacity and 650MWh of storage, adding competition to the market and thereby reducing electricity bills for consumers.
Private homeowners signing up for the program are set to save about 30% on electricity bills while also getting some protection from blackouts. A major benefit of this new home energy technology is the Powerwall 2’s ability to keep powering your home even when the grid is down – as long as the battery is charged.
At least 50,000 South Australian homes, about half of them public housing, will be fitted with solar PV + storage systems by 2022. A trial has already started with several hundred public housing properties having the systems installed at no cost to the tenants. The solar systems consist of one 5kW solar PV system with one 13.5kW Tesla Powerwall 2 battery per household. The intention with this early rollout is to lower costs for those who need it most while benefiting the wider community through the generation of more renewable energy to shoulder the daily power demand.
From the FAQ on the South Australian Government’s Energy Plan website:
“Although 1100 homes will have the home energy systems installed as a part of the trial phases of the program, their power will be aggregated through the virtual power plant software and the benefits distributed to all Housing Trust tenants that sign up. This will model and demonstrate the expected operation and value of the broader system and provide data to stakeholders and investors about how the virtual power plant will work.”
- Provide significant cost savings to consumers participating in the program
- Demonstrate the ability of a virtual power plant to deliver savings to households and improve grid resilience
- Introduce competition into the South Australian energy market, putting downward pressure on energy prices
- Establish a new, dispatchable renewable energy power plant, providing energy when it is most required
- Provide significant employment opportunities for installers and opportunities for involvement by South Australian manufacturers
The $800 million virtual power plant will be financed in stages, with an initial $2 million to be provided by the SA government as a grant, and a further $30 million as a loan from the SA government’s Renewable Technology Fund. The rest of the cost will be covered by private investors.
The independent solar electricity network will be privately owned and operated, with a variety of ownership and financing structures available to private households. Tesla will be responsible for the installations, while a suitable retailer to handle customer liaison and billing will be found after the initial trial stages.