Not the Roadster – the Loadster: Tesla Building Largest “Virtual” Power Plant

February 12, 2018

While  “Virtual reality” isn’t really real – Virtual Power Plants are definitely a network -enabled thing.

Dark Warning for Trumpers: If the US doesn’t start catching up, our grandchildren will all be speaking Australian.


The South Australian government will build what it says is the world’s largest virtual power plant by rolling out solar panels and Tesla batteries to at least 50,000 homes. Installation is planned over the next four years, and those households will combine to create the 250MW virtual power plant. Energy generated from the solar panels will be stored in the Tesla batteries, and any excess energy will be fed back to the grid, which will be centrally controlled and provide energy to the rest of the state when required.

In an initial trial, which has already commenced, a 5kW solar panel system and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed in 1,100 public housing properties for free, with the sale of electricity to cover costs. Following this, an additional 24,000 public houses will receive the systems. A wider rollout for private homes is planned in 2019, depending on the success of the trial phases.

Tesla says that, when completed, the virtual power facility could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant. “Powerwall can detect an outage, disconnect from the grid, and automatically restore power to your home in a fraction of a second,” the government’s virtual power plant FAQ section reads. “As long as the battery has storage in it at the time, you will not even notice that the power went out.”

The South Australian government says the virtual power plant can provide 20 percent of the state’s average daily energy requirements. The South Australian government says Tesla will review all properties to determine whether or not they’re able to support the system and participate in the program. Tesla will also build a service hub at Adelaide’s innovation district Tonsley, which will allow technicians to monitor and service the company’s Powerpacks in Hornsdale, the Superchargers installed across the state, and the residential Powerwall installations.

Tesla’s real contribution may not be its electric vehicles, but its battery production.
It’s not the Roadster, its the Loadster.


Batteries are really what Tesla is all about — not the media-loving, mass market Model 3, not Roadsters, not falcon-wing doors, and certainly not the hyperloop. Batteries are the keys to completing a worldwide transition to a clean energy economy, and Tesla, with all its entrés to date into increased battery storage capacity, will really have to step up its game to dominate the market share as CEO Elon Musk has publicly envisioned.

During Tesla’s recent Q4 2017 conference call, following the release of the February 7th shareholder letter, CEO Elon Musk said that the company “put a lot of attention on other things and just got too comfortable with our ability to do battery modules because we’ve been doing that since the start of the company.” Overlooking the importance of batteries is a significant strategic error, and one which Tesla needs to quickly and efficiently remedy.

An individual cell is the fundamental building block of a battery, and each is fewer than 3 inches long and smaller than 1 inch in diameter. As the battery charges, positively charged lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode through an electrolyte solution in the battery cell. The electrons gather on the anode, at the negative side, and the reverse takes place when the battery is discharged. The electrons move through external circuits that can provide power to thousands of homes, businesses, or electric vehicles.

Tesla’s enormous battery factory — about 5.5 million square feet — in Nevada, called the Gigafactory or Gigafactory 1, is key to Tesla’s future. Once at full capacity, Tesla reportedly expects the Gigafactory to introduce production cost cuts for lithium-ion electric vehicle batteries and energy storage products by some 30%, compared to pre-Gigafactory batteries. Such production savings will occur once the Gigafactory is fully operational in 2018 by “using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing process under one roof.”

Tesla’s home battery integrates with solar to harness the abundant power of sunshine falling on rooftops and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources like the wind and the sun often have excess energy that, unless stored, can “go to waste.” Batteries are the most common type of energy storage and can collect and store excess electricity for those times when clouds, calm days, or the night sky interrupt renewable energy generation.

Batteries may also slowly change the dynamic among energy utilities, homeowners, and businesses as batteries at residences, offices, and other commercial buildings allow customers to save electricity collected by their solar panels to use at times when electricity prices are highest.


7 Responses to “Not the Roadster – the Loadster: Tesla Building Largest “Virtual” Power Plant”

  1. schwadevivre Says:

    I have been saying for 5 years that Musk’s aim with the Tesla was to produce funding and publicity for the batteries and for research into storage. This has, to all intents and purposes given him a massive lead in bulk power storage because everyone assumed that it was the cars that were important.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Musk was up front about using Tesla to pioneer the EV market, and that he expected the humongous car companies to overtake him in vehicle production while he giga-produced batteries.

      He was all about the batts
      ’bout the batts
      no carbon.

  2. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    The idea of recycling car batteries into housing batteries is gaining traction. There is also a growing market in small operators replacing broken/damaged cell units to create an effective car battery.

    Slowly the loop is closing. However, lithium is relatively plentiful but cobalt is not and you do need cobalt for a lithium ion battery. The spot price for cobalt is $81,500/ton a massive increase on two years ago. But there is progress in replacing cobalt with iron and in the process creating a longer lasting battery (eight times as long is the claim), Prof Christopher Wolverton is the lead researcher.

  3. There are so many new technologies in the pipe, that RD link re the Fe/O battery is a major breakthrough (up to 8x power density and hugely increased charging rate)
    There is also the Lithium/sulphur/graphene ball which is a major advance – removing dendrite issues, increasing power density and a massive increase in charging rate.

    Panasonic has announced they have available a Li Graphene ball technology available – maybe the one I mentioned which was only written up in a paper literally days before Panasonics announcement
    The tech giant proudly shared that part of this lineup are battery cells that can power electric vehicles as far as 600 kilometers after charging for just 20 minutes.
    Samsung SDI has said that it will also introduce its new battery technology called “graphene ball” at the Detroit Motor Show this week. According to the company, this innovative technology allows a 45 percent capacity increase and five times charging speeds than standard lithium-ion batteries and solid-state batteries. Samsung also confirmed that it is exhibiting a new technology that improves the capacity and safety of solid-state batteries at the event.

    There also are replacements for the Graphite anode ( apart from graphene which at this time is relatively expensive to produce in the quantities required )
    One replacement is a Li/Titanium compound that provides an approx 100 sq/meter per gram surface area compared with graphites 3 Sq Meter / gram

    It is a Company investor presentation, but does provide info as to what is happening in the raw materials and battery component and recycling world – I do own shares as a long term investment

    There will be others

    The Sodium battery requires high temp, but there have been breakthroughs there – much longer lifespan but really only suited to Utility type Battery arrays.

    So Elon/Tesla has his work cut out. However I did watch an interview with him where he explained his lifelong driving ambition has been to send man to the stars. Obviously for that we need energy storage and electric vehicles for surface travel etc, so he has been laying the foundations and providing the stimulus

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “If the US doesn’t start catching up, our grandchildren will all be speaking Australian.”

    Oh no! Dose guys twawk real funny.

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