Tesla’s 100 MW/129MWh Powerpack system near Jamestown in South Australia is proving to be so quick in providing backup power to the energy grid that 30-40% of the services it provides end up unpaid. The electric car and energy company claims that this is due to SA’s legacy utility billing system not being optimized for the big battery’s response time.
Tesla’s earnings from its big battery installation currently follow the standards set by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which breaks down a power provider’s response time into 6 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minutes for energy to be fed into the grid. Tesla’s SA Powerpack farm near Jamestown, however, has been providing backup energy in as quick as 200 milliseconds. Thus, any amount of energy sent from Tesla’s battery into the grid that lasts between 200 milliseconds and 6 seconds is just too quick to be registered according to AEMO’s current specifications.
In a statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, Tesla stated that around 30%-40% of services provided by the SA big battery ended up unpaid due to the system’s quick response time. Tesla further asserted that AEMO’s standards are currently designed for fossil fuel-based backup systems, which respond to energy grid instabilities far slower than the industry-grade Powerpack batteries.
“Tesla estimates that the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery has delivered 30 to 40% of its services to frequency markets without being paid due to existing AEMO technical specifications being written based on fossil fuel generation assets.
“Current standards compensate batteries for their capacity based on fossil generator response rates, despite the ability to provide a faster ramp time. This makes it difficult for the full value of fast-responding technologies to be recognized in the current contingency FCAS markets.”
Over the past few months, Tesla’s SA Powerpack farm, which currently stands as the largest lithium-ion battery installation in the world, has been pivotal in stabilizing the energy grid in South Australia. Last December alone, Tesla’s 100 MW/129MWh installation accomplished a huge feat, keeping the region’s energy stable amidst the unexpected failure of the coal-powered Loy Yang A power plant in Victoria. During that time, Tesla’s Powerpacks backed up the grid within 0.14 seconds after the unexpected breakdown of the coal-powered plant. The system also supported the grid hundreds of times over the course of the month.
The performance of Tesla’s big battery in South Australia was recently examined by energy expert Hugh Saddler, who studied the charge and discharge patterns of the installation. Over the course of his tests, Saddler noted that the Powerpack farm exhibited great efficiency, with 30% of the battery’s 100MW capacity being allocated to the system’s daily charge and discharge cycles, and the rest being allotted to keep the energy grid’s frequency at a steady 50 Hz and 240 volts.
Tesla’s energy initiatives in South Australia recently met a series of roadblocks, however, with South Australia resource minister Matt Canavan mocking the SA Powerpack farm by calling it the “Kardashian” of the energy industry and alleging that the installation is simply “famous for being famous.” Newly-elected South Australia premier Steven Marshall has also gone on the offensive against the Elon Musk-led company’s projects, stating that his government would not be supporting Tesla’s proposal of building a 250 MW/650 MWh virtual power plant from 50,000 low-income residential units and home Powerwall 2 systems.