In 2017, Tesla upended the status quo in Australia’s energy market when it supplied a 100 MW/129 MWh battery storage facility in the state of South Australia. Since then, the so-called Hornsdale battery installation has performed flawlessly, exceeding all technical and financial expectation. Neoen, which operates the facility, claims it lowered grid related costs in South Australia by $76 million in 2019. As a result, other large battery storage installations are now planned in New South Wales and Victoria.
This week, Neoen announced that Tesla will supply the batteries for the new 300 MW/450 MWh Victoria Big Battery and that Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation has agreed to supply $160 million in funding for the project. Louis de Sambucy, managing partner for Neoen Australia, told the press, “We are delighted to announce that the Victorian Big Battery has reached this important financial milestone. I would like to thank the CEFC for their renewed trust and commitment towards supporting innovative storage solutions. We are on track to deliver this project before the next Australian summer and are looking forward to playing our part in helping Victoria reach its ambitious target of 50% renewable energy by 2030.”
Ian Learmonth, CEO of CEFC, added “Energy storage supports cost effective, reliable, clean electricity and is a key component of Australia’s transition to a low emissions economy. This project is a world-class example of how utility scale batteries can help electricity networks support a higher penetration of renewable energy. The VBB will improve grid security by providing extra capacity during the peak summer months. It will also contribute to the dispatchable resources needed to underpin the increasing share of renewable energy that will make up Australia’s future energy mix.”
TechAU reports that in addition to using Tesla Megapack batteries, the VBB will utilize Tesla’s Autobidder software to sell power to the grid. “Autobidder allows companies like Neoen to autonomously monetize battery assets. Autobidder is a real-time trading and control platform that enables the stored energy in the Tesla Megapacks to be sold into the market. This happens at a fraction of the speed (and cost) of traditional gas peaker plants that were put in place to improve the response times of the even slower coal-fired power plants.”
Fossil Fuel Interests Dissent
While all this seems like good news, fossil fuel interests are unhappy with the project and the fact that it is being supported by the CEFC. Then again, as Harry Nillson once said, “If everyone was happy, there’d never be a love song.” The Sydney Morning Herald reports representatives for the nation’s largest energy and gas providers have criticized the project as a “bad idea,” one that lacks independent scrutiny of costs and benefits or clarity on how it would participate in the energy market.
“This battery will be funded by Victorian consumers whether or not it proves useful,” Australian Energy Council chief Sarah McNamara said in November when the VBB was first announced. “It will also impact private investment decisions made in good faith within that framework.” Oh, boohoo, Sarah. Better to poison the Earth further with the crud the companies you represent spew into the atmosphere rather than do anything that might interrupt the flow of profits into their already overstuffed coffers. Give us a break!
Victoria’s largest energy user, Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter, could save as much as $1 million a year according to the SMH. No one at Alcoa seems to be too upset about the prospect of paying less for electricity. Even Angus Taylor, the sourpuss Energy Minister in Scott Morrison’s tone deaf government had to grudgingly accept the benefits of the VBB. “Investments in batteries can help stabilize our grid at a time of record investment in renewables,” he said.
Hardly a ringing endorsement but welcome nonetheless. Hopefully Australians will soon toss ScoMo out on his ear and divest themselves from his cabal of ultra-right-wing true believers who never met an old technology they didn’t like. Fortunately, the states are pushing ahead with renewable energy projects despite the chill winds blowing in from the ACT. Tesla continues to expand its virtual power plant in South Australia, which will eventually link 50,000 rooftop solar systems and residential storage batteries together and provide clean, renewable energy to all of them for less than they have been paying for electricity from the traditional grid.
Many people overlook the part energy storage and rooftop solar play in Tesla’s overall plans, but Elon Musk has said one day Tesla Energy will provide as much revenue for the company as building cars and trucks does today. What is happening in Victoria is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.