Last year Elon Musk offered to build the largest storage battery installation in the world in South Australia. This would be no ordinary proposal, even less ordinary when he boasted about doing it in 100 days, or else the service would be handed for free. The challenge was met and the installation was completed in only 40 days.
After completion, the project has delivered better than expected by leveling off the electric grid of the region and by bringing profits to South Australia´s system operator, Neoen, who recently made $800.000, in just two days, by buying and storing surplus energy and then selling back as demand increased.
Economic feasibility and Government Support
Moreover, a jaw-dropping announcement for the sector and outside it has come from Tesla and the government of South Australia about an amazing new project to install rooftop solar systems FOR FREE to 50.000 homes in the next 4 years, and link them together with grid storage facilities to create the largest virtual solar power plant in history.
According to Jay Weatherill, South Australia´s premier, the investment for the project will pay itself over time by selling the electricity to those who consume it, or as he said, “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills”, and added, “More renewable energy means cheaper power for all South Australians.”
Also, Danny Price – Managing Director of Frontier Economics, a consulting firm brought in to appraise the plan, states: “The biggest saving for consumers is that they don’t have to pay for as much network cost to deliver power to them because they’re generating their own power..”, he adds, “In principle, it’s quite simple technology. It just requires a smart computer system to stitch it all together.”
Price predicts utility bills for participating households will be slashed by 30%. The installations will begin with 100 households in a low-income housing community. Those systems should be completed by the end of June. Then another 1,000 systems will be installed in similar properties by the end of the year.
After that, another 24,000 Housing Trust residents will be offered the opportunity to join the program, followed by 25,000 more households over the next 4 years. Minister for Social Housing Zoe Bettison said the decision to install the systems in Housing Trust homes would assist the most vulnerable. “We know that people in social housing can often struggle meeting their everyday needs and this initiative will take some pressure off their household budget,” she said.
Australia´s solar power favorable conditions versus coal reserves
But Australia possesses additional advantages amounting to the success of the business of solar power. For one thing, it enjoys plenty of sunlight year round (12 – 22 MJ/m2), and it has been a world leader in rooftop solar. However, a damper to this favorable conditions for solar power installations is the fact that underground in Australia there lie extensive deposits of coal; for some, enough to fuel the world for a millennium.
A major part of the Australian economy is tied to mining and exporting mined products. Of these, coal contributes 8% of its GDP (with shipments mostly to Eastern Asia) and satisfies 80 percent of its electricity requirements. However, most of its coal reserves are lignite or brown coal, which has a high carbon dioxide emission potential and therefore comes with a high environmental and political cost, especially when combined with strip-mining. No wonder the solar power grid storage plan for South Australia made really uncomfortable a number of politicians, whose successful careers owe at least in part to the generosity of coal companies.
A door to a global fossil-free electrical grid
Electricity prices in Australia are one of the highest in the world, so Tesla´s virtual solar power plant will not only mean savings for its electricity grid users but also will provide, with each additional kilowatt-hour, clean energy free of carbon emissions.
With Elon Musk´s business philosophy and creative marketing, a light is shined for the governments of the world with the political wit to introduce such environmental policies, so as to promote green sector development for this kind of world-class green energy projects.
We are all looking for ways we as individuals can move the clean energy revolution forward. One idea would be to share this story with your local political leaders at the state and local levels. The seed you plant could influence future decisions and bring more solar power to your community.