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Battery storage could solve SA “power crisis” in 100 days, says Tesla

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As news reports warned of the impact tightening domestic gas supplies could have on Australia’s lumbering electricity market, a handful of journalists gathered in a former power substation in Melbourne to hear how the nation’s energy security problems – and more particularly, the so-called “power crisis” currently afflicting South Australia – could be solved inside of one year, using grid-scale battery storage.

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Tesla’s VP of energy, Lyndon Rive, at the Australian launch of Powerwall 2

Speaking at the launch of Tesla’s second generation of lithium-ion battery storage products on Thursday – the residential Powerwall 2 and the Powerpack 2 for grid and industrial-scale applications – the company’s head of energy products, Lyndon Rive, said Tesla had a “big pipeline” of grid-scale battery storage projects, many of which could solve the kinds of network troubles experienced in a number of Australian states over the latest record-breaking summer.

“With large centralised storage at sub-stations, and solar and storage (in homes and businesses) it will be near to impossible to take down the grid,” he said.

“Renewable energy has gone from being the supplementary energy source, to now becoming the primary fuel source, and fossil fuel will be the supplementary energy generation resource – which is the right place to be.”

And in terms of South Australia, which suffered a crippling and controversial system black event last September, Rive believes Tesla could install “everything” the state needs – say, between 100-300MWh of plug and play grid-connected battery storage – to prevent such an outage from ever happening again, and all in under 100 days.

His confidence is based on the company’s recent success in its home state of California, where it completed the installation of a 80MWh battery storage plant at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in just 90 days.

“That’s unheard of. You just don’t get power plants running up and down that fast,” he said.

Rive said the company saw this sort of battery storage application as “a big part” of its business, going forward, and confirmed that Tesla was already in talks with Australian utilities about projects similar to Mira Loma, where battery storage would be used to help networks manage peak demand.

Mira-Loma-Substation-Tesla-Battery-Storage-Facility

“The challenge that Australia has, is you’ve bifurcated the different aspects (of the grid), where your transmission is viewed in one single lens and your generation and your grid services is viewed in another lens.”

Of course, the other great challenge facing Australia’s electricity market is its governing politicians, who seem to favour building more fossil fueled “baseload” generation technology, including a “clean coal” power plant, to solve the nation’s energy security problems. But choosing this path, says Rive, would be an “absolute mistake.”

“It makes no sense to duplicate infrastructure,” he said. “By the time it gets up and running, the technology will be obsolete. It’s going to take years. …And it still doesn’t address the problem. It’s a bandaid.

“We don’t need to build more transmission lines. …The only reason we’re building more transmission lines is to address congestion that may happen a few times a year. Storage can fill that gap,” he said.

“Use the existing infrastructure (and add battery storage) and it solves the problem. It really does. And it’s more cost effective. Why go the other path?”  

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  • Brendan Lee

    Will they listen?

    • howardpatr

      Lithium probably always going to cost too much for large scale storage – flow batteries, (ViZn), and the EOS, (Zynth), etc, seem like they and others might be more appropriate.

      • FeFiFoFum

        How so ?
        The flow batteries cost more upfront than the Li Ion batteries.
        They may be cheaper based on LCOS but up front, they cost more.

      • FeFiFoFum

        How so ?
        The flow batteries cost more upfront than the Li Ion batteries.
        They may be cheaper based on LCOS but up front, they cost more.

  • Chris Baker

    This is interesting and I wish I could understand better how this would actually work. The Mira Loma example is an 80 MWh installation with a capability of producing 20 MW. The suggested 100 to 300 MWh of similar installation for South Australia would imply a capacity 25 to 75 MW and that would have prevented the outage in SA in September. The generating capacity that was lost in SA was 456 MW in 7 seconds. According to AEMO report the interconnector could have handled a loss of 260 MW, so for the system to remain stable another 194 MW is needed. The 75 MW that a Tesla battery installation could have provided seems insufficient to have prevented the outage. The synchronous generators online did increase their output through an inertial response but this was momentary. Their governors would not have been set to respond.

    Where would the missing 120 MW come from? Maybe Tesla would provide a different set of equipment that could produce more than 75MW implied from the Mira Loma installation?

    What am I missing? Can someone suggest how this might work?

    • solarguy

      Your not missing anything. More storage than that will be needed!

    • Stephen Gloor

      It won’t work. There is no combination of anything that can cope with the loss of 12 transmission lines at once. That is not the point. The crisis is the high cost of gas and a reluctance to use it because it is too expensive. It is cheaper to let the state go black than to start up a gas plant because there are no penalties for letting the state go into black-out – none.

      What the batteries will do is keep the grid going when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing and allow the gas generators to be used affordably. That and start penalising energy companies for blackouts.

    • FeFiFoFum

      What was that 456MW of generating capacity made up of ?
      Was there any wind in there,, as this should now stay online based on changes to the ride through settings on the protection.

      In that instance the interconnector could have handled the loss of 260 MW but the loading of the interconnector is dynamic.

      In the event of another pending event ( based on good weather predictions) I am sure AEMO would take the precaution of ensuring more local generation on the SA side of the interconnector, thus the interconnector would have greater capacity to pick up load.

      If you ran the interconnector at zero power transfer for instance, then it would have its full capacity to deliver in the event of any generation or trasnmission loss on the SA side or the border.

      • Chris Baker

        The 456 MW was totally wind. And you’re right, if it happened now the ride through settings would mean that SA wouldn’t go black anyway. And I’m sure AEMO will now have more spinning reserve on the SA side.
        I’m just speculating whether, had that battery farm been in place at the time, would it really have helped?

    • Cooma Doug

      The system we have now is based on a large base loaded grid with slow frequency and voltage response. There is a minimal load side response and ancilliary service market that is not alligned appropriately to disturbance needs. When you look at it at work and the technology choices
      available, its a sledge hammer on a tack.
      What we do when a generator trips is ram the energy down the neck of the customers needed or not. We could take milli second action on the load side and halve the response requirement. We can target the location of grid scale inverter responses. This will control the voltage colapse hazard which is the most difficult issue in such circumstances as happenned in SA.

      The storage milli second response in key transmission locations will eliminate the power swing voltage colapse. These bursts of var generation and consumption support for voltage are not the same as mwatt
      demand and frequency response and do not require a long time of discharge. This milli second support will provide the window for slower action to follow on the tangible energy shortages.
      Put simply, the grid controllers nightmare is voltage. The voltage moves directly proportionate to the square of the line current. Voltage collapse, when in the danger zone is a killer. Gas, coal and other synchronous gens have voltage reg responses, but it is slower and sent from the most difficult location. The grid milli second battery can provide the transitional breathing space.

      The base load coal gen so called stability solution is a big error.
      It could be done but will block the cheapest options and sustain the most expensive.

    • neroden

      10 x 100 MWh installations, as proposed, is 1000 MWh. Power rating for that is 250 MW. That’s enough to hande the loss.

      Distributed appropriately so that there’s a 100 MWh installation in each subsection of the grid, of course

  • David McKay

    We need to wait for the “innovation PM” to be gone so we can start innovating in the energy sector. In 2 (election) years the costs will favour renewables to the extent that the already skeptical generators will just be no way on a “cleaner coal” PP, unless the Gov’t throws some billlions at them & indemnifies them against losses. Consumers will play a huge roll with solar & batteries. Need to get the power away from the current monopolies.

  • Cooma Doug

    Lets not talk about the government. Lets dicuss the solutions. At the moment in the industry, solutions are clear to those who know the industry. The pollies are background noise.

    What will happen soon, politicians will be knocking on the door of industry discussions with arms folded and ears tingling. If they dont do it, they will loose the election.
    Both teams will be there.

    The truth cant hide. The fossil fuel is the large black home phone.

    • FeFiFoFum

      Actually that is the solution !
      Get rid of the government.

      We need the Renewable Party to be formed.
      Mandate the rollout of clean energy at all levels ,, no new construction without incorporating as much self supply as possible.

      There is so much sunshine in Australia its redonculous ..

      • valakos

        Scott Morrison’s been telling us not to be afraid of coal though

        • FeFiFoFum

          Tell that to the poor bloke with black lung disease..

        • trackdaze

          As long as its got a coat of lacquer and sits prominently on ones desk its fine. 🙂

      • neroden

        You know, I suspect the Green Party will be all in favor of 100% renewables…

  • iGraffiti

    And we could get to 100% renewables in a blink of an eye with a concerted effort by all governments and renewable energy business around the world, and a big effort by the fossil fuel industry to transform itself rapidly into renewable energy suppliers and thereby avoid a slow painful death. Such a pity it is taking so many years when it need not. And imagine the forests we could re-plant within a decade with a universal ETS applied across the world, to start to bring CO2 levels in the atmosphere back down, coz it still has to be reabsorbed by something….. Nice to dream….

    • Chris Fraser

      Yes, some policy settings are a good start. Hopefully there may be an offer to vote for those soon.

    • Richard

      I like your idea. Except, humans and forests don’t mix. And we have too many humans

      • neroden

        I live in a forest.

        • Richard

          Except for a few special people 🙂

    • trackdaze

      We don’t really need to get to 100% renewables. Just 90% quick as we can.

  • E. David Anstee

    Is the permitting and connection agreements required included in the 90 days? Dealing with some of the distributors we have in Australia could eat up 6-12 months just for that part of the process…

    • Dee Kay

      I think there are a few things missing from that timeline because the Greensmith project for AltaGas was the first online and took 4 months total. I’m guessing he’s only talking about the construction phase.

      • neroden

        He *has* to be talking after permitting, land acquisition, etc.

        And I’m sure that if he’s physically ready to connect and the connection agreements aren’t signed by the other side, he’ll count it as done.

  • DJR96

    Finally found the specs.
    So the PP2 has 200kW of usable storage, but only a 50kW capacity inverter.

    For grid support as proposed in this article, the system ought to have inverter capacity 2-3 times the storage capacity. It needs to be able to punch out high currents but only long enough for generators to ramp up. Units that were already running like the wind farms would only take minutes. And such a system would be able to ride through transmission line faults and the like.

    I fear the first generation of grid storage installed won’t be ideal at all. Still, anything would be beneficial.

  • DJR96

    Finally found the specs.
    So the PP2 has 200kW of usable storage, but only a 50kW capacity inverter.

    For grid support as proposed in this article, the system ought to have inverter capacity 2-3 times the storage capacity. It needs to be able to punch out high currents but only long enough for generators to ramp up. Units that were already running like the wind farms would only take minutes. And such a system would be able to ride through transmission line faults and the like.

    I fear the first generation of grid storage installed won’t be ideal at all. Still, anything would be beneficial.

    • Mike Dill

      There are better solutions for short term demand. Tesla energy has
      designed their storage units to match the batteries that they produce.
      It makes sense for their application.

      With batteries balancing the wind farms, SA would not have lost much beyond the NSW connector and a few other lines last year. There might still be a case where some blackouts will occur, but not for the entire state.

      I do agree that the storage will probably be misallocated in the near term, and that something is better than nothing. I am getting one of the PW2 units for my house, which is a misallocation, but it makes sense for me.

    • trackdaze

      It need only provide competitive pressure in the first instance.

    • neroden

      You’re mixing up your units again. 210kWh of usable storage (the h is important), 50 kW power capacity.

      In other words, it takes 4 hours to fully discharge at top power rate.

      This is enough hours to cover the early evening peak, not just instantaneous peaks!

      • DJR96

        Quite right, I missed the “h”.

  • Paul Davies

    Don’t forget all solid state devices (batteries, solar panels etc) & even wind turbines follow the grid for voltage & frequency. They NEED the grid & some power stations online

    • DJR96

      With the current system, yes.

      Which is why we urgently need regulation reform to allow for a system that doesn’t need synchronous generators to “form” the grid. SA only needs 400-500MW battery/inverter system to form the grid itself. I’m looking longer term.

    • juxx0r

      no they dont. you can black start off a battery.

  • DJR96

    WHOA!!! Elon Musk himself has put a big wager down on this.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/03/09/elon-musk-just-personally-promised-to-fix-south-australias-ener/

    I think he is pretty safe though. The amount of red tape and paper work to get through beforehand gives him plenty of time to prepare.

    But can it be done with existing regulations? Or will those need updating to even allow this to be done?

    Either way, he’ll prove that quick solutions are possible. Battery storage is viable and can solve even big issues. And it’ll highlight the shameful glacial speed authorities work at.

  • Michael Murray
  • Radbug

    Depth Of Discharge issues, anyone? Frankly, my dear, I still prefer flow batteries.

  • Ian

    Some news reports suggest Musk will offer his 100MWH storage battery for just $250/KWH. That’s $25 million for this set up . If the arbitrage was just 5c/KWH, that’s 5000 charge/discharge cycles to pay it off. It’s probably not enough to solve SA’s energy reliability problems but it’s a good start. Even if this battery explodes like a Samsung phone it’s not a huge amount of money to lose! To circumvent existing regulations, it could be attached to any one of the existing renewables plants to extend their operating time.