South Australia plans virtual power plant of 50,000 homes

The government of South Australia is planning to create a virtual power plant of 50,000 homes equipped with solar panels and Tesla batteries.

Rolled out over the next four years, the project will start with a trial across 1,100 government-owned houses. A 5kW solar panel system and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed free of charge, with excess energy fed back into the grid. As well as adding resiliency, the state government claims the 250MW virtual plant could reduce energy bills of participants by up to 30 per cent.

“More renewable energy means cheaper power for all South Australians,” said South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

“We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefitting with significant savings in their energy bills. Our energy plan means that we are leading the world in renewable energy and now we are making it easier for more homes to become self-sufficient.”

South Australia made headlines last year when it partnered with Tesla to deliver what is claimed to be the world’s largest lithium-ion storage project. This latest venture will see Tesla rolling out the installation of the systems, with the South Australian government seeking a third party energy retailer to help deliver the programme. Households will be metered for all energy consumed (whether via the home energy system or the grid) but can expect to make significant savings.

If the target of 50,000 home installations is reached, the total storage capacity of the virtual power plant will be 650MWh, or enough to meet around 20 per cent of South Australia’s average daily energy requirements. The project is being fast-tracked by an Aus$2 million grant and Aus$30 million loan from South Australia’s Renewable Technology Fund.

“What this project will do is connect thousands of solar and battery systems to make one giant, coordinated virtual power plant,” said South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis. “And this project will lower power bills by 30 per cent for those that need it most, before being made available to a broader network of customers.”

“Once again South Australia is at the global forefront of renewable energy and storage technology.”