Elon Musk’s Tesla battery and the Australian power landcape
What caused the problem:
South Australia went through quite a few blackouts in the past couple of years due to storms tearing through transmission lines. The faults in the transmission system caused several wind farms to lose power. With this loss, South Australia suddenly started drawing more power across the interconnector to Victoria, which then overloaded and switched off.
Elon Musk tweeted that he could fix the South Australian power crisis, promising Tesla could get the system installed and working 100 days after the contract signature or it would be free. His boastful tweet some people thought was just a publicity stunt, but amazingly it all carried though and the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery has survived its first summer in South Australia’s mid-north.
The 100 MW output of the Tesla battery might appear small compared to South Australia’s peak energy needs of about 3000 MW however it has the ability to quickly inject electricity within a fraction of a second, this is a huge part of its success so far. AEMO is now working on a new back up scheme which will use the Telsa battery to great effect, it aims to detect high flows on the interconnector and trigger the battery to begin discharging its full output as soon as possible, while lessening power to homes and businesses if required. More batteries may even be installed.
The battery is better equipped to respond quickly than coal, gas or hydro electric power generation so for instance if there was another power generator that goes down it can make up the lost portion of power almost instantaneously. It happened on December 18 where a coal generator in New South Wales tripped, the battery was able to respond to the sudden loss of 689 megawatts of generation almost instantly.
It has even managed to cut costs for electricity customers in South Australia, with a high amount of wind farms which only recently started offering FCAS the state sourced much of its back up power from generators on the eastern seaboard. When the interconnector is under maintenance AEMO is required to source some frequency control within the state. Before the battery they had to use the four gas-fired power stations offering those services which was very expensive, the costs transferred to the consumer. The battery can now fix this problem at a much lower cost and the prices did not spike over the last summer.
What does it mean for us Electricians?
This will not be a negative for electricians in any way, it opens up yet another field for us to work in. An improvement to power generation and stability could be beneficial for everyone. Hopefully more financial incentives are provided for battery owners in Australia’s future.