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.
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.
“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?”