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Faster, smarter, cheaper: Grid operator hails performance of Tesla big battery

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The Australian Energy Market Operator has hailed the initial performance of the Tesla big battery in South Australia, saying the results of its first four months of operation shows it is faster and smarter than conventional turbines.

The 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, was officially switched on in December 1, with 70MW providing network security for the grid operator, and another 30MW operating energy arbitrage in wholesale markets.

How this battery’s abilities has been sliced and diced has been fascinating to the industry. Contrary to the constantly dismissive remarks of conservatives and the pro-coal lobby, it’s the performance of this battery that has impressed observers, including AEMO.

In a new report, the grid operator used these series of graphs below to illustrate how the battery was used in the frequency control and ancillary services market, providing a much more accurate response than conventional generators, and a much faster response.

The first illustration is the response to a major outage of a fossil fuel generator in NSW on December 18 (different to the one highlighted by RenewEconomy in Victoria on December 14, see our story Tesla big battery outsmarts lumbering coal units after Loy Yang trips).

The response of the Tesla big battery in the so-called “contingency FCAS market”, triggered when frequency deviates below 49.85Hz, was virtually immediate.

“Commissioning tests and simulations confirm that the HPR is capable of responding more rapidly to a contingency event than conventional synchronous generation,” AEMO notes in its report.

And the battery is significantly more accurate than conventional turbines.

These graphs published by AEMO indicate the response in the regulation FCAS market by both conventional steam turbine, and then by the Tesla big battery.

In the first graph, it shows the conventional turbine response to AEMO demands, in much the same way as a drunk may walk across the street, or throw darts at a dartboard.

The next graph shows the response of the Tesla big battery – a constant bullseye. “Experience shows that the HPR is capable of providing very high quality regulation FCAS,” AEMO notes.

Sadly, as Tesla has said on several occasions now, and as AEMO recognises in this report, there is actually no market in Australia for such speed and accuracy.

Even the conventional turbine staggering across its target range is operating within industry standards, but AEMO recognises that there could be a strong case for such markets to be developed, particularly as the grid changes to more inverter based technologies (wind and solar), and away from synchronous generation.

AEMO also notes the battery’s impact on the regulation FCAS market, which deals with slow moving frequency disturbances.

“This market has seen high prices for this service for the two years prior to the battery becoming operational,” AEMO notes. RenewEconomy has written more expansively on the battery’s ability to smash the gas cartel’s dominance of those FCAS markets.

So, not only is it faster and smarter, the battery storage technology also provides a cheaper outcome.

“This is the first time regulation FCAS has been provided in the NEM by any technology other than conventional synchronous generation,” AEMO notes, adding that the  neighbouring Hornsdale Wind Farm has also recently trialled operation to provide regulation FCAS.

Remarkably, the bulk of the battery’s discharge capacity – 70MW – has not even been used yet. It is there sitting in reserve in an emergency – like the state government owned diesel gen-sets – but has not yet been called upon.

But its value is clear, and AEMO says it the battery will also be incorporated into a new control scheme – the System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS) – designed to stop the state separating from the main grid.

Its role will be to provide extra response in case of a major frequency disturbance, or a sudden surge on the interconnector – effectively holding the grid together while the remaining slow-moving conventional generators get into gear.

AEMO notes that future batteries may not have the same set-up as the Tesla big battery, because the needs in different parts of the grid are different.

“Operation of the HPR to date suggests that it can provide a range of valuable power system services, including rapid, accurate frequency response and control,” it writes.

“The funding arrangements for the HPR meant there was a focus on ensuring all its capabilities were fully utilised to maximise power system security for South Australia.

“This included engagement with AEMO when control settings and operating arrangements were determined, in a way that would not typically occur for other generation development (where the project developer is responding to existing market signals and arrangements).

“Future development of batteries outside of South Australia might not result in the provision of similar services, due to the way FCAS are currently quantified and rewarded, as well as the voluntary nature of participation in the FCAS market, and in frequency control arrangements more broadly.

“Where other large batteries are established under government incentive schemes, there could be a role for a more prescriptive provision of system security services, to maximise the benefits to the power system such devices can provide.

“Current FCAS market arrangements could also be modified to specifically recognise the rapid and accurate response capabilities of batteries, and therefore enhance their ability to earn income from providing them.”

  

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  • BushAxe

    There’s no need to be derisive towards conventional turbines, they’re working within the laws of physics and will still provide other services like inertia and fault current that batteries can’t. There’s probably a whole article in the SIPS project as it will eventually use all the batteries (280MW) and load shedding to keep the system balanced in the event of loss of a large generator or interconnector (probably another world first).

    • Lachie

      Who is being derisive? If you are triggered by a description of a graph, you are being way too sensitive. Turbines are not the problem, it’s what turns them around that is.

    • Peter F

      Inertia is another way of describing frequency control. The advantage of inertia is, it is passive and self initiating in a very short time frame but is also limited. A 200 MW gas turbine can provide about 20 MWs from inertia over 0.5-3 seconds and then needs to claim it all back over the next 20 seconds. a 30 MW/30 MWh battery can give you 30 MW for 3,600 seconds

    • neroden

      Inertia and fault current aren’t services.

      Frequency control is a service which can be provided by inertia, or better, by batteries.

      • Cooma Doug

        If fault current is not provided the fault is not cleared. Fault current is actually a part of the market because the need is recognised by the security and constraint algorithms.

        • JonathanMaddox

          Fault current is the thing that melts fuses and jumps spark gaps when there is a short circuit in a power system. For the most part there are better ways of dealing with problems than pumping extra current through them. Pumping extra current is merely traditional, rather like burning coal.

          • BushAxe

            Fault current is required to provide protection systems with a distinctly different level of operation to enable them to detect abnormalities. It’s also not just higher currents but the speed at which different parameters change.

      • BushAxe

        System strength is a service provided by the transmission networks and is now an obligation under a new AEMC rule made last year. As a result of AEMO identifying a NSCAS gap in SA Electranet will now contract generation to meet the gap until they develop a long term solution (which will probably be synchronous condensers at Davenport). http://www.aemo.com.au/-/media/Files/Electricity/NEM/Planning_and_Forecasting/NTNDP/2017/Second_Update_to_the_2016_NTNDP.pdf

  • John Saint-Smith

    Two contrasting responses:
    Elon Musk: “Wow! Did we even dream it could be this good so soon? Put this story up on the website, and start building battery packs.”

    Craig ‘Morons Forum’ Kelly. “Yeah, but who gives a FCAS? I want to know how many houses can it power for a week? Thought so – useless!”

    • Joe

      No doubt The Marshall will be out doing a media gig in front of Elon’s Big Battery at some stage to spruik what a ‘Jewel’ South Australia has. Only thing is it was Premier Jay’s doing.

  • Hettie

    Let’s not feed the trolls.

  • Aluap

    Needless to say all this was known BEFORE the Hornsdale Power Reserve was turned on. All you had to do was read the specifications and know that digital processes are very quick.

    • Justinas

      Yes, but seeing numbers in action is different. It’s not just numbers, it’s a proof of work…

      • Aluap

        Any expert could have worked this out beforehand. The Weatherill government obviously did when they dictated the terms of their contract with Tesla.

  • Bonnie Le

    Solar/battery plus nuclear power will solve Australia’s potential energy crisis for the next 500 years. I don’t know why Australia, with the worlds largest Uranium deposits isn’t building Nuclear reactors like crazy. We need to vote in the Politicians who will.

    • Hettie

      Probably because we also have fantastic solar and wind resources which are much cheaper and faster to harness than nuclear, and do not have the intractable problem of waste disposale that nuclear has, or the potential for horrific accidents.
      Nuclear reactors take about 15 years from concept to commissioning.
      Wind around 5 years
      Solar 2 years or less.
      Others on these pages can tell you the costs per megawatt hour of each, but I’m fairly certain that nuclear is far more expensive than either wind or solar.
      And consider the terrible costs of the Fukushima disaster in human lives, pollution of the land, and the ongoing flow of polluted water into the Pacific Ocean. That radiation pollution has now reached California – the whole pacific Coast of the Americas will be affected.
      Sun and wind are safe.
      Nuclear is manifestly unsafe.

      • John Burr

        I agree that for Australia, free, renewable power is abundant enough to power the whole nation, but your assessment of nuclear is archaic. The new thorium reactors are nothing like that. They are actually able to consume the nuclear waste from the old style reactors while not producing waste of their own. Also, physics prevents the new reactors from having a Chernobyl-style melt-down. And before you ask, the reactor that leaked in Japan wasn’t a thorium reactor.

        • Hettie

          Granted. However, there remain the important issues of time from concept to commissioning, cost of construction, and ongoing costs of fuel, management and maintenance.
          On all of these points, nuclear comes last by a very long way.

          • Petrus Steenkamp

            And more than half that time is normally spent arguing with paranoid and disturbed people about how the operation of the plant is far less likely to kill them than meteorites. Of course if you want to full benefit of building this infrastructure you actually have to erect the universities and educational infrastructure to train the people and that certainly takes longer than 15 years. The Russians have just about foreclosed on this market and while the Chinese may still have a chance i guess whatever immediate future there is in contracting with the Russians.

            That and spending the resources on creating a seriously high tech industry is probably why nuclear generation wont happen in Australia or many other places.

          • Hettie

            Not to mention that in the face of the climate emergency, we just don’t have time to mess about.
            Renewables are quick and cheap compared to nuclear, and coal, as well as squeaky clean, compared to coal.

          • Petrus Steenkamp

            When people want to sell you something based on an emergency ( however convincing it seems ) you should smell crisis capitalism and carefully consider your options about how the emergency will affect you and how dangerous the ‘solution’ is. Of course since there is nothing dangerous about Solar/Wind/Tidal, but the possible corruptness of the contractor/expense of the project, i think nuclear will gain traction in so far as the massive demand for renewable’s wont and perhaps can’t be met soon.

          • Petrus Steenkamp

            Absolutely but the capacity is limited and while we expand production of solar and wind there is room for nuclear for at least the next few decades. It’s a huge oversight not to pursue nuclear in tandem with all other clean techs.

          • Hettie

            Petros, what is it about “Climate Emergency” that you don’t understand?
            By the time legislation could be changed to allow a nuclear power station in Australia, and all the environmental hoops jumped through, and all the traditional owners of the necessarily remote land appeased, and the necessary grid extension built, and the facility itself built, we are up to 2050, and past the mass extinction temperature.
            The price of solar will then be about 10% or less of the price it is now, and of wind perhaps 25% of present cost. Already they are way cheaper than nuclear, so who will invest in nuclear, when it is blindingly obvious to all but the nuclear obsessives that it would be a stranded asset before the first sod was turned?

          • Petrus Steenkamp

            Wind installation cost have already declined by 60% since 2019 and i have seen projections that it will decline by an additional 50% by 2030. This i presume is without more national governments throwing their weight behind it. I suspect solar cost will also decline steeply in the same time frame but as i tried to make clear we will likely be production capacity constrained for decades to come. Even If Australia doesn’t take the ‘climate emergency’ seriously ( nor do i) it wont soon be too late to employ whichever provider gives them a good deal. I hear the Russians are giving nuclear stations away for free ( they build it and sell electricity based on long term PPA’s ) so if Australia ever decided that there really was an emergency i guess a free power station might come in handy.

            The irony seems to be that the people who get in the way of nuclear power are the very people who say they want to save the planet which just goes to show you how idiotic single issue campaigners can be are frequently are. This talk of stranded assets is simply stupid as you might not even have to pay for AND every country still needs a baseline of power production far in excess of actual needs OR massive numbers of batteries. The chance of battery factories being built that much faster than nuclear power stations is probably remote because again governments tend to be short sighted when it comes to the lives of their citizens.

            As for being a nuclear obsessive i would just disagree and say that i am not afraid of nonsense stories about radiation being peddled by barely literate and tremendously misinformed people on the internet. I was also concerned about radiation back in high school but then i read books and grew up and now i am not longer so easily bamboozled.

          • Petrus Steenkamp

            Basically Hettie i can assure you that there will not be mass extinctions in 2050. I am fairly sure i should be here to see it so i think we can reconvene this discussion then! Remember that the world has been ending for 2000 years ( since that guy in the desert) and that temperature extremes have happened before with absolutely crazy climatic changes in every written history. What we are experiencing now is by no means strange and the only thing we can say for sure is that we now attribute it to rising C02 in the atmosphere.

            There is certainly reasonable reasons for suggesting that there is a correlation but there are also MANY alternative explanations as well as facts such that the majority of the warming in the 20th century happened long before the majority of the C02 release. Also the climate record seems to indicate that temperatures rises before C02 and that it may be consequence not a cause. Of course i am no climate scientist and i think we should take the pentagon budget and go renewable as fast as we can do it without slowing down development in the third world.

          • Hettie

            Sorry, Petrus, but your personal assurance carries no weight whatsoever. Zip. Zero. Nada.
            Best predictions from those who, unlike you, have made climate study their life’s work, are that without drastic action, temps will reach 3.5°C above pre- industrial levels around 2035. That is not compatible with life for most of the world’s food crops.
            I have no idea what rock you have been hiding under, but the rise in global temperature over the past 50 years exceeds anything seen in about 600,000 years.
            Sky fairy linked predictions of the end of days have no relevance here.
            Photographs showing the retreat of glaciers over the last 80 years clearly show the effect of global warming.
            CO2 persists in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So even zero emissions from today onwards would not reduce temperatures, and zero emissions is a ĺong way off yet, so the CO2 levels, 280 to 300 ppm before the industrial revolution, and not exceeding that level in 800,000 years, was 410.31 ppm in May this year.
            The 800,000 years is the deepest East Antarctic ice core from which air bubbles have been analysed.
            In less than 200 years, CO2 concentration has risen about 35% above the previous highest levels. Temperature rises align very closely to CO2 rises. Unless CO2 levels fall markedly (how?) We are cooked.

  • wonkmeister

    What’s the environmental impact of the end product? We’re all for clean energy but what’s the life of batteries and what’s the end use of them?

    • Petrus Steenkamp

      The technology is moving ahead very rapidly due to the investment in cellphones and more recently automotive batteries. I can’t speak for all manufacturers ( and few things need be polluting if we could regulate manufacturing standards across and within national borders) but a Tesla automotive grade battery packs apparently degrade by less than 10% up to 300 000 km. The data collected over the last 5 years basically suggests that it may by very hard to get these battery packs to degrade by 20% as it would take at least 500 000 KM and with this years technology perhaps 750- 1000 000 Km.

      https://electrek.co/2018/04/14/tesla-battery-degradation-data/

      There is also good data for other automotive packs and within then next few years we should be able to get significant volumes of data on smaller sized home batteries used in conjunction with solar panels. Basically thought this is a bootstrapping process and the more batteries, solar panels and wind turbines we put up the cleaner the solar panels, and wind turbines we build using electricity that way.

      To mine the material required to make wind panels/solar panels ( that all last over 20 years) can certainly damage the environment but it’s much less damaging than mining coal and then perpetually burning it. While there are still so many hundreds of millions of people who live on the edge of starvation we should burn coal if that means helping them but we should do our absolute best to burn it towards transitioning our economy into renewable’s before we potentially do irrepairable damage to our biosphere.

      I don’t actually believe we are going to do ( certainly not with Carbon dioxide)that but we are most certainly poisoning our rivers and oceans with all manner of other toxic sludge’s and poisons and that alone can and will degrade the lives of billions.