Virtual Power Plant in South Australia is Glimpse of the Future

February 20, 2018

Our Energy Plan – Government of South Australia:

The State Government has unveiled a plan to roll out a network of at least 50,000 home solar and battery systems across South Australia, working together to form the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant.

Beginning with a trial of 1100 Housing Trust properties, a 5kW solar panel system and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed at no charge to the household and financed through the sale of electricity.

Following the trial, which has now commenced, systems are set to be installed at a further 24,000 Housing Trust properties, and then a similar deal offered to all South Australian households, with a plan for at least 50,000 households to participate over the next four years.

A registration of interest will be is open for members of the public who wish to participate in the program.

The Government has released a market notice for a retailer to deliver the program, with a preference of bringing more competition into the market.

Analysis by Frontier Economics shows the 250MW plant is expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30 per cent.

But wait, there’s more –


Natural gas is getting edged out of power markets across the U.S. by two energy sources that, together, are proving to be an unbeatable mix: solar and batteries.

In just the latest example, First Solar Inc. won a power contract to supply Arizona’s biggest utility when electricity demand on its system typically peaks, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The panel maker beat out bids from even power plants burning cheap gas by proposing to build a 65-megawatt solar farm that will, in turn, feed a 50-megawatt battery system.

It’s a powerful combination for meeting peak demand because of when the sun shines. Here’s how it’ll work: The panels will generate solar power when the sun’s out to charge the batteries. The utility will draw on those batteries as the sun starts to set and demand starts to rise.

Just last week, NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida utility similarly installed a battery system that’ll back up a solar farm and boost generation. In California, regulators have called on PG&E Corp. to use batteries or other non-fossil fuel resources instead of supplies from gas-fired plants to meet peak demand.

And batteries may be about to get even more competitive. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre said he expects the agency to decide Thursday on a proposed rule that could remove barriers to energy storage participating more in wholesale markets.

Renew Economy (Australia):

The report’s nine case studies show how markets from Texas to Tamil Nadu, India, to California to Denmark are making use of tools and policies that grid experts and academics have long argued are needed to achieve a larger presence of variable renewables.

Our research shows how the market share for wind and/or solar made up from 14 to 53 per cent of generation in various markets, up to 10 times the global average of 5 per cent as estimated by the International Energy Agency.

These case studies prove that renewables can be (and are being) safely integrated into the grid, can assure ongoing security of supply, and can promote system flexibility—all through an assortment of mechanisms that vary by specific national circumstances.

Uruguay, for example, has become the world’s fastest growing wind market, by integration with its strong domestic hydropower resources—a highly flexible power source that the country can tune up and down according to the availability of wind power. Uruguay last year got 33 per cent of its electricity from wind, up from 1 percent in 2013.

Other countries have achieved similar flexibility. Denmark stands out as the world’s No. 1 market by share of wind and solar power, achieving 53 percent of net generation from wind and solar last year. Denmark has done this by successfully balancing the variability of wind generation with cross-border, sub-sea cables whose capacity is equivalent to more than half the country’s domestic generation.

In this way, Denmark exploits the diversity of generation of its bigger neighbors, especially by tapping into hydropower from Scandinavia and renewables and thermal generation in Germany. Such interconnection allows Denmark to import and export power according to the status of its domestic wind generation, a mechanism that allows it to balance its grid.

Meanwhile in South Australia, the world’s No. 2 market by share of wind and power (48 percent), grid operators are ramping up tech-driven flexibility through demand response and battery storage.

South Australia is a global leader in major grid-scale and residential battery deployments, with at least five of such installations completed or announced at the time of writing. Tesla’s 100MW lithium-ion battery (the world’s biggest) was completed in late 2017 alongside a 315MW wind farm to help balance the grid.

An additional 30MW of battery capacity is being built on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia next to the Wattle Point Wind Farm. Planning is underway for three more major grid-scale, residential projects.

South Australia has also contracted for nearly 1 gigawatt of demand response this year, which allows users to be paid to reduce consumption in the event of demand surges.


4 Responses to “Virtual Power Plant in South Australia is Glimpse of the Future”

  1. grindupbaker Says:

    “An additional 30MW of battery capacity…”. MW isn’t capacity.

    • valuethefuture Says:

      Well, no, it isn’t, and I wish the folks who write these articles would go the extra sentence or three to improve their readers’ tech literacy about this stuff as we move into a much-needed future.

      It’s a 30MW/8MWh battery, meaning it can supply a maximum 30MW of current to the grid at a time. Its storage capacity is 8MWh, so if run until completely discharged, it could in principle supply as much as 30MW for 16 minutes, or 8MW for an hour, before it’s dead. But it isn’t expected these battery systems will need to run until completely discharged, anyway. That’s not what they’re for.

      They can’t spare the space or something?

      (The extent to which a battery’s max output depends on its remaining charge is important, too, but to the people operating it, not for articles like these.)

  2. astrostevo Says:

    As a South Aussie I’m really proud of my state govt and its vision for the future – though ashamed of our Federal one.

    There’s a state election next month which could be a problem depending on the result but I hope the current ALP government under current premier Jay Weatherill wins and things continue along these lines.

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