Tesla big battery is changing the way people think about the grid | RenewEconomy

Tesla big battery is changing the way people think about the grid

Tesla big battery is causing a rethink about the way the grid is managed. It will already become a front-line defence in a new mechanism designed to prevent black-outs and load-shedding in the event of a major fault.


The arrival of grid-scale battery storage in Australia was a long time coming, and a little time tweeted, but the presence of the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery in South Australia, and its performance in its first few months is every bit as exciting as its boosters hoped – and its detractors feared.

The Tesla big battery is possibly the most bally-hooed installation in Australia’s electricity grid for the last half century.

But the excitement, from its owners and developers, from competitors, analysts and grid operators, is as exciting as it is infuriating for those who seek to dismiss it.

The speed and accuracy of the battery has already been noted, both by its engineers and owners, and the grid operator, as has its ability to flex from charge to discharge in a matter of seconds.

And because it is a fully dispatchable installation, it can now take some of the stuffing out of the bloated markets that were dominated, controlled and extorted by the fossil fuel incumbents, as the company itself, the politicians who contracted it, and the market operator have noted.

And there’s more.

The Australian Energy Market Operator is now looking to the Tesla big battery – and others like it – as its first line of defence against the kind of potentially catastrophic events that triggered the blackout in South Australia more then 18 months ago.

The Tesla big battery – officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve – will play a front-line role in a new mechanism called the System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS).

These schemes could be based almost entirely on the ability of these batteries to swing into action at a moment’s notice in response to a major fault (such as the tripping of a big coal or gas generator), and literally hold the grid together while slower moving conventional machines get into gear.

The idea is to stop the big interconnectors from tripping off – and leaving states such as South Australia islanded and at risk of massive load shedding, or worse.

“This is a step change for us,” Damien Sanford, the head of operations at AEMO, tells RenewEconomy in an interview. “The battery enables us to inject energy into the system in a matter of milliseconds.

“It is fantastic for that kind of control,” he adds, noting that it means that the operator does not need to trip off so much load. In other words, it doesn’t have to cut supplies to major users such as BHP’s Olympic Dam  or other manufacturers.

“The risk of load-shedding will be further reduced as more batteries come onto the grid, and contribute to this new scheme,” AEMO’s recent assessment of the first few months of the Tesla battery concluded.

This new system – to be implemented this quarter – will be able to call on the full 100MW discharge capacity of Tesla big battery. It will only need minutes of storage – (in fact only 10MWh of the 100MW/129MWh battery is set aside for this purpose) – but it is enough to create time for other machines to respond.

Detractors of the battery storage system – and there are many, particularly among proponents of coal-fired generators – have taken a one-dimensional view of the technology and chosen to completely ignore the battery’s speed, accuracy and flexibility.

They argue that if the battery is not capable of meeting peak demand for more than a few minutes, then how could it possibly be of use. It’s a nonsense argument, of course, but one they repeat endlessly.

But the Tesla big battery’s new role in the SIPS program, and the display of speed and versatility and flexibility elsewhere in the grid means that for AEMO, and other players in the energy market, the game is changing quickly.

As we reported earlier this year, the new technology is so quick it has left rule-makers in its wake. Many of its abilities – such as the speed, the accuracy and the versatility – are not valued in the grid because the technology has never been seen before.

AEMO is keen to look at modifying rules that will actually ascribe value – very fast frequency response, ancillary services and other specifications. It has cited similar rules in overseas markets, particularly in America, although these would need to be adapted to suit the local market.

It is also looking at a potential performance system, rewarding batteries or other technologies for their faster and more accurate response to system faults. Right now, they get little more than a pat on the back. (See this story to show how this graph above compares with conventional turbines)

“We are pretty excited about range of batteries coming into the NEM (National Electricity Market,” Sanford says.

“And we are genuinely excited about the types of services that batteries can provide. We will actively pursue those changes to enable greater participation by these batteries, and similar fast responding technologies.”

And other battery storage systems are on their way. The new battery alongside the Wattle Point wind farm in South Australia should be on line within the next month, and will be followed in the next year by a battery at the Lincoln Gap wind farm, and then with the Snowtown and Whyalla solar farms.

In Victoria, three large batteries are being installed, one at a new wind farm near Stawell, one at a new solar farm, and another at a centralised grid connection point.

Sanford expects the amount of grid-scale storage set to participate in the “regulation” FCAS market could amount to more than 1GW, which will play a crucial role as more synchronous plant exits the market.

Hybrid solutions are also emerging – these are the batteries that are deliberately paired with wind and solar farms to smooth out the intermittency of their output.

Sanford is also excited about the speed with which the battery responds to the contingency market, and the fact that storage can be commissioned so quickly, can be built without the need for new connection points, and because it is modular – meaning they can be big or small, or anything in between.

“The speed at which we can deploy these things …. And the scale that they can be rolled out is pretty exciting.”

And battery storage will play a key role at the consumer level too, as more households and businesses add battery storage to get the best value out of their solar systems, reduce their exposure to the high cost of grid power, and secure back-up needs.

Storage, Sanford says, will play a key role in dealing with the system peaks, which are being pushed by rooftop solar further into the evening, and to deal with the increasingly high “ramp rates” caused as by fluctuations in weather-dependent output.

“Once we work out how to integrate large volumes of battery storage, we are going to start to see some great outcomes,” he said.

Was AEMO surprised by the success of the Tesla big battery?

“We were not surprised by it. I think we had some pretty high hopes, around what it will be able to do.

“That explains why we were heavily involved with some of the controls on the battery when it went it.

“I wouldn’t say we were surprised with what we been able to do – South Australia is pretty unique, and the battery technology in that unique environment has given insights into what may be applicable around the NEM.”

And if the battery had been there in September, 2016, would it have prevented the blackout as some have suggested?

“I wouldn’t like to speculate on whether would they would have avoided the system black,” Sanford says. There were simply too many variables, and any such conclusion would need to rely on detailed analysis.

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  1. Ben Dixon 3 years ago

    Goodonyah Giles

  2. bedlam bay 3 years ago

    Will FRYberg, Marshall, Abbott, Kelly and their fellow liars continue to criticise renewables and battery storage? Will Tesla and others render Snowy 2.0 redundant. How will Turnbull respond or will he continue to speak with a forked tongue and try to appease the climate change deniers? PS: Turnbull should tell Abbott very loudly that his tax payer funded “Pollie Pedal” is a total rort.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Two Tongues Turnbull has his forked tongue in a mangle tangle. He’s got the solar and the battery at his home and he talks up his wet dream of Snowy 2.0 All this whilst he rubbishes the Labor states and territories for going big on RE and describes them as …’reckless….’left wing idiocy and ideology’. The Turnbull needs the help from a speech tutor.

      • john 3 years ago

        He is speaking not only to his voters but his back bench who have formed a rump of pathetic ideas men going no where. ie build a new FF generator drivel; drivel; drivel.

      • mick 3 years ago

        off topic the bloke who head butted abbott just got 2 months in the slot,im going down there some time after specifically to shout him a round

        • Rod 3 years ago

          That seems harsh. I know the intent was there but he didn’t connect. And now I know there is a specific law against assaulting Commonwealth public officials.

          • mick 3 years ago

            agreed, if it was the yanks he would have shot by security

          • Joe 3 years ago

            The story was on the TV. Magistrate came down hard because the headbutter wannabee was not ‘genuinely’ remorseful…so into the slammer he goes to have a longer think about affairs.

        • john 3 years ago

          6 months and 2 months with good behavior.

    • Alexander Hromas 3 years ago

      Snowy 2 is a pollies thought bubble that we are trying to turn into a working system. SMEC can design it and manage its construction. Will it be a viable storage system by the time its complete my money is with the no vote on this one

      • Hettie 3 years ago

        Still in the very costly feasibility study phase.
        Change of Gov’t before the first sod is turned
        Bye bye snowy 2. Hello multiple, distributed PHES schemes that don’t involve drilling through kms of granite.

  3. Joe 3 years ago

    With the transmission lines and towers that all went down in Sept. 2016 how would the Big Battery, if it was built then, have been able to stop the big blackout? Without the means of transmission any generating sources( including use of the ‘little black wonder rock’ ) would have been up against the proverbial brickwall. To date I have yet to hear any one from The COALition say one good word about the Elon’s Big Battery. Why isn’t ‘Channel 9 Energy Expert’ Chris Uhlmann interrogating The COALition about the positivity of the Elon’s Big Battery. I get it that the Rupert and his newsrags are in a continual ‘War on RE” but the rest of Aussie media need to lift their game and ask the questions.

    • john 3 years ago

      If the wind farms had the type of flow through controls that are industry best practice; not in Australia at that time; but overseas then there would have been some areas that went black but quiet a few areas that would have stayed online.
      However saying that yes there was not sufficient local generation to supply the whole grid in SA.
      As to the Aussie media majority being Rupert every week they print blatant lies to be frank. As to the Chris Uhl.. just laugh when he speaks best idea.

  4. john 3 years ago

    Once within the grid a lot of the 20,000 PHES sites, as identified, come on line plus solar wind and Concentrated Solar and Storage as well as battery storage, then with perhaps a capacity to meet the demand of the whole of the Eastern Seaboard, how are the Coal Fired Stations going to survive?
    Answer they will not.
    We will be witness to a base cost of power about $50 MWh 24/7.
    Probably lower by the time all this is built going on the way solar and wind are going down in cost all the time.
    So get cracking build the type of generators and storage that AGL has decided is best in their assessment, and after all they are in the business so should have half a clue.

  5. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    The experts ( and many at RE) always knew the millisecond utility of these batteries. If these are deployed by every generator and makes each generator responsible for grid stability, FCAS won’t be outsourced at all. It may even bugger off completely. Hello consumer savings.It would be good for Abbott to know all this, as he cycles through east Gippsland on his Penny Farthing.

    • john 3 years ago

      You are talking french to clown shoes way way over his understand of anything after all this is the man who uttered the awful words ” Shit happens ” about our men being killed in Afghanistan.

      • mick 3 years ago

        yep the bloke he said that to looked ready to drop him

    • Ron Horgan 3 years ago

      You paint a great cartoon, Abbott on his penny farthing , rucksack full of coal, uphill and head wind , passing a dead Hazelwood , and earnestly thinking
      “how can I get this thing to go faster”. (Hint dump the coal and get a Tesla)

      • Joe 3 years ago

        see my above…’ The COALie Pedal’

      • Hettie 3 years ago

        In his budgie smugglers.
        Excuse me while I vomit.

        • Charles Hunter 3 years ago

          Don’t forget the obligatory blue ties that COALition types like to wear, just to rub it in the faces of everyone who cheered Julia’s fantastic speech.

          Would that the ties were long enough that they could all emulate Isadora Duncan.

          • Hettie 3 years ago

            I wonder how many here would know what you are talking about.

          • Charles Hunter 3 years ago

            That is what Google is for.

            I, for one, would never underestimate the research abilities of people who read Renew Economy.

            After all, it’s Capital Hill where the “suppositories of all wisdom” reside.

          • Hettie 3 years ago

            You are right of course. And to be reading or writing a comment is to be one keystroke away from all the knowledge in the world.
            But what a horrifying way to die.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      …its called ‘The COALie Pedal’

    • Rod 3 years ago

      Yes, Finkel said every generator should have storage and that was given the tick as the RWRNJs assumed he meant renewables.
      Make every generator, including fossils, responsible for enough storage to manage their own trips.

  6. Cooma Doug 3 years ago

    “Tony Abbotts” of the world have been around for ever. Benjamin Harrison, president of USA 1890, he said “cars cant think like a horse and they will be too dangerous”. This held up the car industry for years.
    But Tony is worse because what he is saying about coal isnt true.
    Cars are definately dangerous but they are here.

    • My_Oath 3 years ago


      The Monash Forum can now, henceforth, be known as the the “Harrison Forum”.

      • Roger M 3 years ago

        Or the Flintstones?

        • Hettie 3 years ago

          I like the Coalash Forum much better.

  7. john 3 years ago

    Perhaps I should give a link to the said previous Prime Minister.
    This is the link for the person who has zero I dear not have any how to realise he is a representative of a country.

    • john 3 years ago

      Just expand it when you keep hearing the rubbish then close the links ok sorry.

  8. TheWay 3 years ago

    I think the best response to critics who think these batteries are too small to be useful is a simple example anyone can understand.

    Imagine you are driving on a 3 km bridge. Suddenly, in front of you, 5 meters of the bridge collapses. What is 5 meters of a 3 km bridge? Only 0.167% of the bridge. An insignificant portion of the bridge percentage wise.

    But in that moment, that tiny 5 meters is worth just as much as the entire bridge.

  9. BushAxe 3 years ago

    Credit needs to be given to Electranet for the vision to start planning for this under the SA Energy Transformation RIT before batteries became economic. The grid reconfiguration will see up to 600MW of aggregated grid batteries, FCAS enabled inverter generation, synchronous condensers and demand response enabling SA to maintain a stable island in the event of seperation from the rest of the NEM. In the not to distant future SA will be able to operate without synchronous generation for some periods as we see the rollout of utility solar. PHES can’t happen soon enough.

  10. Alexander Hromas 3 years ago

    I am always amazed by the gee-whiz it works comments re the Hornsdale battery. In the 1960’s the Swedish firm ASEA, now ABB, developed high voltage controlled inverter/rectifiers to power long underwater cables. These have been continuously improved and copied by others ever since. New Zealand has used such a system since the 1960’s to transfer power across Cook Straight from the south island, rich in hydor capacity to the more populous and industrialized north island. The response of these units is governed by the speed at which their thryristor units can change in conduction which is very fast. The NZ system has very little mechanical inertia and can be thought of as a large battery, stored water, with an inveter to connect it to the grid, north island. Why have the local rule makers and politicians been so blinkered

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      Because this is Australia, and if we import ideas from other countries they are always the ones that have been proven to fail.

      • Alexander Hromas 3 years ago

        Not always Monash’s decision to import brown coal technology from Germany, a former enemy, was a game changer for Victoria but that was long ago. More recently SA broke ranks with the Commonwealth rules that you could only use British equipment on public projects by using BBC air blast circuit breakers to solve a problem that the Pommy stuff could not and Queensland followed by importing the far superior BBC steam turbines. Its only recently that the knuckle draggers have got their paws on the handles of power

  11. Carl Steven Collins 3 years ago

    Great, A black out at a 50MW coal fired plant is never good.

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      I think you left a zero off, there.

      • Carl Steven Collins 3 years ago

        No, I worked as an outside operator on a 50 meg coal fired bubbling bed combustor. I didn’t mind the interruption being an outside operator, made my day easier and a hell of a lot more quite.

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