Tesla’s ambitious Virtual Power Plant project in South Australia has entered its third phase, with the initiative now aiming to add another 3,000 public housing properties to the growing solar and home battery network. With the addition of 3,000 home solar and Powerwall-equipped properties to the system, Tesla’s VPP could start providing grid support services that are equivalent to a fairly-sized battery storage system.
Phase 3 would allow the total number of homes involved in the project to grow to about 4,100 Housing SA properties across the state. Granted, this is still a small step towards Tesla’s goal of creating a Virtual Power Plant comprised of a whopping 50,000 homes, but Phase 3 could bring together roughly 20MW of rooftop solar energy and 54MWh of combined battery storage.
Functioning as a single “power plant,” the 4,100 houses in the Virtual Power Plant could play the role of a battery installation that’s only 11MWh less than the recent 50% expansion of the Hornsdale Power Reserve. In a statement to One Step Off The Grid, Energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan noted that the expansion of the Tesla VPP would address some of the power instability in the area.
“In a world-first, home batteries will provide the grid stability services that South Australia has lacked since the closure of the Northern Power Station, to address the legacy of instability that we inherited. This will deliver at a household level what we are also delivering through the 50% expansion of the big battery at Hornsdale Battery to address these legacy issues,” he said.
The ramp of Tesla’s Virtual Power Plant actually comes at a valuable time for South Australia, as the state is currently on track to become the first gigawatt-scale grid in the world. While this is a big milestone in the state’s push for sustainability, the growing amount of rooftop solar has become a major cause of concern for the Australian Energy Market Operator. The rollout of the Powerwall-equipped homes in the VPP could then play a role in managing the state’s huge solar resource.
“Having rooftop PV and household batteries linked through a Virtual Power Plant creates the equivalent of a grid-scale battery in our suburbs and towns, which will complement the four other grid-scale batteries already operating in South Australia. Tesla’s vision is to grow this VPP to include 50,000 homes across South Australia and has already started adding private households in addition to the Housing SA tenants participating in the project,” the minister said.
Tesla’s South Australia Virtual Power Plant has the potential to become one of the largest battery systems in the market. Once complete, the 50,000-strong system is expected to deliver 250MW of solar energy and store 650MWh of backup energy for the region. That’s far larger than the Hornsdale Power Reserve, which is already disrupting the energy landscape in South Australia even before its 50% upgrade.