Puff Piece For Tesla Ignores The Real Truth

By Paul Homewood



Elon Musk owned Tesla installed a battery farm in South Australia in 2017 and has since helped residents save $116 million in energy costs, Bloomberg reports.

The company installed the world’s biggest lithium-ion batter to help reduce the risk of blackouts as the country moved to renewable power generation.

Operating via the Hornsdale Power Reserve, it has helped to restore stability to the network and lower the costs of running the power grid, according to reports.

The decision to install the battery came after a Twitter ‘bet’ between Musk Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes where Musk promised he could build the battery ‘in 100 days or its free’.

Two years on and the battery farm has slashed the costs required to regulate the South Australian grid by about 90 per cent, Bloomberg claims.

Operating via the Hornsdale Power Reserve, it has helped to restore stability to the network and lower the costs of running the power grid, according to reports

The 129 megawatt system installed by Tesla offers a way to tackle the variable power generated by wind and solar generators – it stores up the energy until it is needed and distributes it through the grid during lower generation periods.

They smooth out the power flows that can threaten the stability of a network made up primarily of renewable sources of energy.

This is what was happening in Australia until the Tesla battery was installed – but since then it has helped respond to those issues quickly.

The battery has been designed to help cover temporary dips in wind power, say for 15 minutes, or help control frequency on the grid at times when natural gas-fired plants are unable to help balance generation and power demand.

The state has yet to say how much it paid for the battery, which is part of a £293 million ($390 million) plan that includes diesel-fired generators to help keep the lights on following a string of blackouts over the past 18 months



What this doubtlessly well coordinated puff for Tesla does not tell readers is that none of this extra cost of grid balancing would be necessary at all without the overloading of the SA grid with unreliable wind and solar power. Whether Tesla’s batteries are a cheaper option than other forms of network balancing is beside the point.

SA has a population of 1.8m, so scaled up the £293m package would be the equivalent of about £11bn in the UK. A huge bill by any account.

Perhaps instead of expecting SA residents to pay these costs, wind and solar farms themselves should be responsible for the cost.

The claim that the battery is “powering 30,000 homes” is ludicrous anyway. The 100MW system can only supply 129 MWh, so if the grid went down, those 30,000 homes could only be supplied for 77 minutes.

The purpose of Horndale is not to tackle the variable power generated by wind and solar generators, as claimed. Only proper sources of dispatchable generation can do that. Horndale’s role is simply to provide short term balancing, usually for a few seconds or so, whenever demand and supply are out of balance. This gives time for generators to come on line.

There are many methods to do this, including those diesel generators mentioned, so there is nothing radical about battery storage.


The report by the specialist engineering advisory company Aurecon, which has triggered this Tesla love fest, is actually revealing in a number of ways.

Horndale’s (HPR) central function is to provide security to the SA grid via SIPS, which was et up to prevent the loss of the Heywood interconnector to Victoria:




And as the Report itself explains, the increasing mix of renewables has increased the reliance on the interconnector:

Closure of local generation in SA in conjunction with increased interconnection
capacity has increased SA’s reliance on interconnection for reliability of supply





Whereas previously there was ample thermal generation to provide not only dispatchable power but also importantly system inertia, the SA grid now has to rely on Heywood for that as well.

Consequently there is now a need for the expensive system security services provided by Tesla and others.




Despite the fact that about half of SA’s electricity comes from renewables, demand still has to be backed up in full by gas and diesel.

Even then, the SA network still needs the interconnectors to export power when wind generation is high, and to import when it is low.





In short, SA’s high mix of renewables is only sustainable because the rest of the Australian electricity network is there to fall back on.


Which brings us back to Aurecon, who published this piece of puff and apparently funded it. But is it truly independent, as they claim? Maybe not.

According to their website, battery systems are a useful source of income for them. And certainly one they would no doubt like to grow.


A nice glowing report about Horndale’s Tesla batteries might help to bring in a bit more business.

Or am I just being an old cynic?



April 2, 2020 at 01:03PM

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