South Australia and Tesla team up again for world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’
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South Australia and Tesla team up again for world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’

SOME 50,000 homes in South Australia will receive solar panels and Tesla batteries in a landmark plan to turn houses into the world’s largest “virtual power plant.”

The move was announced by the state government on Sunday and sees the environment-conscious company team up with the southern Aussie state for the second time. In November, Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk fulfilled a promise to solve the state’s power problems by completing the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery installation outside of the Hornsdale.

The latest installation is planned over the next four years, and those 50,000 households will combine to create the 250MW virtual power plant. A virtual power plant works by using multiple energy sources – rather than one big power station – to ensure a reliable supply.

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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.

More than 6,500 homes have already signed up to register their interest in participating, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said in a tweet Monday.


Tesla Powerpacks in Hornsdale, Australia. Part of the world’s largest litium-ion battery, on Sept 29, 2017. Source: Tesla/Handout via Reuters

The project is being bankrolled by taxpayers through a government grant and a state-funded technology fund totalling AUD32 million (US$25 million), the government said in a statement.

Households will not have to pay for the installation of the panels as it will be financed by the sale of electricity. Families can also expect a 30 percent drop in energy bills and increased energy stability.

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“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,” said Weatherill.

“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 has long suffered with regular power cuts and energy shortages. A major blackout occurred last year when a heat wave caused demand to spike. And in late 2016, much of the state was left without power after a storm damaged crucial transmission lines.