A few years ago, Tesla teamed up with the Government of South Australia and various energy authorities to build South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant. Today, the Tesla-powered VPP seems to be providing substantial energy security to Australian homes.
During the Q1 2021 earnings call, Elon Musk explained Tesla’s reason for integrating its solar and Powerwall products. He elaborated that Tesla solar or Solarglass Roof and Powerwall 2 integration would make installation easier and would turn homes or buildings into utilities, thereby giving people energy security.
“Even if all lights go out in the neighborhood, you will still have power. So that gives people energy security. And we can also, in working with the utilities, use the Powerwalls to stabilize the overall grid. So let’s say that there’s a–like there was in Texas, there was a peak power demand, and the power demand, because the grid lacked the ability to buffer the power, they had to shut down power,” Musk explained.
“There’s no power storage. No good point on power storage. However, with a whole bunch of Powerwalls and houses, we can actually buffer the power. And so if the grid needs more power, we can actually then, with the consent, obviously, of the homeowner and in partnership with the utility, we can then actually release power onto the grid to take care of peak power demand,” he said.
South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant supported by Tesla’s solar products and Powerwalls have proven Elon Musk’s point. Energy from solar panels has caused volatility in local power prices. According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), average daytime power prices in South Australia fell below zero, hitting negative AU$9.28/MWh in the first quarter this year.
Tesla Powerwalls help store the excess energy from solar products in South Australia until the grid needs it. Tesla’s VPP used Autobidder to charge and discharge the Powerwalls, trading the power on Australia’s National Electricity Market.
Tesla plans to install 5kW solar and 13.5 kWh Powerwall systems on Housing SA premises as part of Phase 3A of South Australia’s Tesla VPP project. Housing SA offers social housing services to the public. The Financial Times estimated that Tesla’s next solar and Powerwall installations, along with the ones previously installed, could generate 20MW of power and store 54 MWh of energy.
Jeremy King, a partner at Pinsent Masons, believes Tesla’s VPP could generate revenue by selling energy to the National Electricity Market and providing a backup source for the grid operator. He believes Tesla’s revenues from the VPP will generate enough revenue for the company to pay back the $30 million loan provided by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for Phase 3A.
Watch a feature on Tesla’s Virtual Power Plant in South Australia in the video below.