World’s largest ‘virtual power plant’
US tech giant Tesla and the South Australian Government have unveiled plans to build the world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’ that will see 50,000 solar and battery systems installed across homes in the State. In early February, six weeks out from the State election, South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill announced Tesla had begun a trial on 1100 residential properties, which will receive a 5kw solar panel system and 13.5kwh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery at no cost. At the conclusion of the trial, systems will be installed at an additional 24,000 housing trust homes and thousands more households over the next four years at an estimated cost of $800 million. The 250 megawatt (MW) ‘virtual plant’ was expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30 per cent, according to analysis by Frontier Economics. Mr Weatherill, who faces election on 17 March, said the State Government will provide a $2 million grant to support the project and $30 million loan from the Renewable Technology Fund. “My Government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, of now we will deliver the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant,” Mr Weatherill said. “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefitting with significant savings in their energy bills.” Mr Weatherill also announced if re-elected his Government would lift the State’s renewable energy target from 50 per cent to 75 per cent by 2025, and commit to a Renewable Storage Target of 750MW of energy storage capacity by 2025; a quarter of the State’s average peak demand. The pledge was met with mixed reviews, with Federal Energy minister Josh Frydenberg labelling the idea as a “thought bubble”. “He is a problem gambler doubling down to chase his losses,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefitting with significant savings in their energy bills.”
As part of the project, homes will be equipped with Tesla’s 13.5kwh Powerwall 2 rechargeable lithium-ion battery.