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Tesla big battery shows off its flexibility in final testing

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hornsdale power reserve copy

In the final days of testing before the big opening on Friday, the Tesla big battery in South Australia has been showing some of the capabilities that make it such an exciting addition to Australia’s main electricity grid.

As this graph above shows, Tesla and the battery’s owner Neoen followed up the testing of its charging and discharging abilities with a display of rapid changes on Wednesday evening to underline the flexibility of the 100MW/129MWh plant.

The graph charts the operations of what is known to the market as the Hornsdale Power Reserve (it is located next to Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm). It shows a period of charging, or load (in red) and discharging, or generation (in blue).

Presumably, the aim will be to take advantage of quick changes in wholesale prices, or simply to charge up when prices are low and discharge when they are high, and to help meet peak demand (which it did later Thursday, see update below).

The battery is also contracted by the government to provide fast-response stability services to the grid. A full explainer of what it can and cannot do can be found here.

If this sounds just a little golly-gosh, it is important to note that the Australian National Energy Market has never seen anything like it.

The NEM is an ageing monolith built around slow, centralised generation and a one-way network.

Small batteries in households and scattered elsewhere around the grid, and the creation of “virtual power plants” illustrate show how that is being challenged, and the switching on of the Tesla big battery – and the others that follow – is showing just how that might change, and change rapidly, in the future.

Update: The Tesla big battery is due to open just before noon on Friday – meeting the contracted deadline of December 1 – but the launch event may have to be over after the Bureau of Meteorology forecast severed weather and thunderstorms around the same time.

aemo wind battery

Later update: Australian Energy Market Operator tweeted on Thursday that the Tesla big battery was about to deliver 70MW of “stored wind energy” to deliver into the market in Thursday’s peak, just as prices soared in Thursday amid the heat, low wind generation in South Australia and a missing coal unit at Loy Yang A.

AEMO called on the Tesla big battery to ramp up to fill in the gaps as the amount of wind generation died off and temperatures soared. It fed 70MW into one 5-minute period, and over the 30 minute settlement period (5pm) 59MW, and  11MW into the next one.

Not only did it help the grid right through a peak when there was little wind, and moderate wholesale eletricity prices, it also meant one expensive gas peaking plant did not have to be switched on.  

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  • Joe

    ‘Big Battery’ to the Elon……ready when you are.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    With a $14,000 per MWh event about to happen in SA, hopefully they get it running today.

    • Chris Drongers

      Fantastic! Built fast, high profile, grat utility.
      But, what will its actual effect on wholesale and retail pricing actually be? I can’t recall seeing a chart showing the battery’s effect on real time price spikes (as opposed to demonstrating thecprinciple). Is there a dollar figure somewhere of the effect of the battery on wholesale price spikes? Knocking a spike down by 50MW for half an hour in a small market like SA’s would be expected to be significant.

      • GlennM

        Well as it has not actually been run yet you cannot see a chart of it’s effect on pricing…

        You will need to wait a few months then some clever person will need to compare and contrast with historical data

        Then there should be a “reasonable” estimation of what it effect has been, not what it will be

    • Ian

      IF it eventuates. Have had these for years and they almost always never eventuate as forecast. Usually closer to $2000/MWh for a shorter period.

      • Ian

        Oooh, look at that, it mysteriously disappeared.

        • BushAxe

          AEMO intervened with by activating the RERT, I assume the first stage is the battery and second is the backup generation.

        • Jonathan Prendergast

          haha. indeed!

  • Andy Saunders

    Interesting that there’s a US storage (30 MW, 120 MWh) in Arizona with a US$11/MWh PPA.

    Don’t know the Tesla cost, but that sort of cost makes storage very attractive economically if it can be replicated here… (https://www.utilitydive.com/news/top-energy-storage-projects-driving-the-sector-in-2017/511723/)

    • Mike Westerman

      US$110/MWh (11c/kWh) – their analysis is not quite right, as it would seem the solar is carrying most of the connection and transaction costs, which for a battery storage project could be half the cost.

      • Andy Saunders

        Sorry, picked out the wrong number – US$15/MWh for storage in Tucson. Which is around A$20/MWh.

        If the solar portion is carrying the connection and transmission cost, that’s still pretty remarkable – at less than US$30/MWh all-in! Of course there’s some dodgy accounting happening, for instance there’s some significant subsidy as the actual non-subsidised cost would be US$90/MWh for both solar and storage. But it’s still pretty impressive…

        Accounting for losses, and for being undersized for the solar plant, the storage component actually comes around US$130/MWh, not at all as spectacular, but still an indication of the game rapidly changing (https://www.utilitydive.com/news/valuing-storage-a-closer-look-at-the-tucson-electric-solar-plus-storage-pp/448370/ )

        • Mike Westerman

          Yes – similar to the recent Mexico numbers of 1.75c/kWh. I recently was discussing solar binds for Middle East with a developer and he was pricing panels at around 28c/W, with balance of plant and delivery/erection at about the same – that means under $1/W which over 25y and very low hurdle rates brings them in at around 2c/kWh

  • Steve Jordan

    Hearty congrats to all who were part of this project to date: you have done well. Let’s hope it all works to your expectations long into the future.

  • Peter

    With recent electricity growing and power wall price keeps dropping. Solar + power wall may become more popular, and virtual power plants will not be a dream.
    Sick of the over priced electricity bills long time ago.

    • Joe

      …are the Powerwalls 2.0 still on backorder or are they being delivered now.

      • Mike Dill

        I have heard scattered reports of installs, but more complaints of delays. Hopefully someone here has better (or more direct) news.

        • Colin Stanley

          How ’bout we develop an Australian alternative? I mean, we should have done this a decade ago but that’s another story

          • diesel

            Redflow battery – done

      • Richard Laxton

        I signed my contract for a PowerWall 2 yesterday. According to the guy at Tesla I could have had an installation date in the next week or so. Unfortunately, I am in an area managed by Ausnet Services and they are currently working at 65 working days for approvals. Something that other networks do instantly.

    • Patrik Stjepan

      Do not elevate your ego, The rats will find a way to turn the law and make you pay one way or another. They may create a law that only 10% could be used for private use like in many places one can only harness 10 % of rain fall. Skunks will never loose.

  • trackdaze

    Job done. Next

  • Jon

    Does anyone know why the graph only show +30/-30?
    I thought they’d test it to its +100/-100.

    • BushAxe

      This is Neoens 30MW/90MWh part, the rest is contracted to the SA Govt.

  • RobertO

    Hi All, this is as I hoped it would be, remove 1 gas generator from the list and at the same time put down ward pressure on very high wholesale prices (I have no problem with somebody making a profit, but I object to a company making a profit in one day that a reasonable company should make in 1 year just because they can and then continues the following day to make more).

  • solarguy

    Excellent, yeah baby,way to rock!