As reported here over the past two years, the state of South Australia has been plagued by unreliability in its electricity system leading to state wide blackouts that have caused businesses millions of dollars in lost production and sales. To address this failing, the state has turned to storage batteries to help prevent the power outages. First, the state entered into an agreement with Tesla last year to provide battery storage to the grid. Now, we report two new measures to assist home owners.

The Premier of the Australian state of South Australia announced solar systems and batteries will be supplied and installed free of charge to its citizens, in the largest project of its kind.  Each home will receive a 5 kilowatt (kw) solar system paired with a 5kw/15kwh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery.The cost of the project will be financed through the sale of electricity, generated by the solar panels, as well as through a state subsidy. An electricity retailer (to be determined by auction) will have the right to take electricity from these homes to supply power into the state’s electric grid. The electricity generated by the solar panels and the batteries will not be owned directly by the households, but would be sold back to them via a retailer. A trial has already begun, with the first 100 homes to receive their systems by June 30, and another 1,000 homes over the following year. Following the trial, a further 24,000 systems will be installed. These iniital properties are low income housing owned by the South Australian government. A similar deal would then be offered to all South Australian households, bringing the total to at least 50,000 systems to be installed within four years. Analysis by consultancy firm Frontier Economics indicated the 250 megawatt system would lower energy bills for participating households by 30%. The main saving for home owners is that they will not have to pay for as much network cost to deliver power to them because they’re generating their own power. Premier Jay Weatherill 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.”

What is being called the world’s largest residential virtual power plant was turned on in suburban Adelaide, Australia. An initiative of electric power utility AGL, it involves the installation of solar panels and battery storage at hundreds of properties being linked together to form a five-megawatt virtual solar power station. However, the size of this project will in time be overtaken by the one mentioned above, which would be 50 times larger.

However, to cover its bets, AGL also announced it is building a new natural gas-fired electric power station at Barker Inlet, in South Australia. The 210-megawatt power station is being designed to ensure reliable electric power in the state as well as to put downward pressure on electricity prices. The plant, to be operating in 2019, will be able to ramp up from zero to full capacity in five minutes, should the solar and wind systems suffer problems. The state is phasing out coal plants and moving to natural gas and renewable energy (with battery storage) to reduce its carbon emissions.

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