Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to the National Press Club today and one of the big changes to his policy lineup is the country’s energy policy. Like the NBN, Turnbull says we need to be technology agnostic as he tries to sell Government investment to build new coal-fueled power stations to replace the old ones being decommissioned. There seems to be a gaping hole in the policy and this is the lack of appreciation that power storage using batteries, like that from Tesla’s PowerPack actually exists.
Turnbull spoke about how new technology allows new power stations to run far more efficiently, and cleaner than ones built decades ago and that’s definitely true, we also have a plentiful resource of coal in Australia, so its understandable how someone arrives at that position. Inviting as it may be to continue using traditional power sources like coal, what we’re really saying here is that we know what emissions are doing to the planet and that effect would still happen, just slower with new coal-based stations. The take away being that however clean, emissions still effect the environment. If a minimised emission was the best possible outcome I think most people would agree that cheaper power bills was enough of a trade off to support that path.
There is of course another key opportunity that seems to be ignored and was certainly missing from the PMs address. ‘The sun doesn’t always shine’ seemed to be the justification why we can’t rely on solar power to replace existing demands and service growing energy demands in the future. That’s right, however the technology has arrived to enable the storage of that free energy from the sun and fortunately Australia is one of the sunniest places in the world, making it potentially an incredibly viable option.
The solution is to store the energy in lithium-ion batteries and Tesla’s PowerPack is being used around the world to do just that.
Yesterday, Tesla and the Southern California Edison revealed that they added PowerPack to their Mira Loma Substation. This large lithium-ion battery storage facility can store store up to 80 megawatt-hours, enough energy to power 15,000 homes for four hours. The battery storage contains two 10 megawatt systems, each containing a massive 198 Tesla Powerpacks and 24 inverters.
If anyone is South Australia is paying attention, you may want to consider this.
CEO of SCE, Kevin Payne said,
This project is part of our vision at Southern California Edison to take advantage of the wind and the sun, and operate a flexible grid that delivers clean energy to power our homes, our businesses and our vehicles
Standing here today among these Tesla Powerpacks is a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry and the opportunities that will come with it.
Something else that’s amazing is the speed at which this can be implemented. Creating a new power station can easily take 5-10 years, which this new power source was turned on, just 88 days after the build commenced.
The California Public Utilities Commission directed SCE last May to expedite the use of energy storage connected to the grid to mitigate for the loss of natural gas storage at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon. The Mira Loma Battery Storage Facility was commissioned by the California Independent System Operator just 88 days after groundbreaking.
Australians love our technology and over the last decade more than 1.5 Million homes have added solar panels to their roof. With the right pricing conditions, many of those households would be in a position to add battery storage to their home, eliminating the dependency on reducing feed-in tariffs on solar generation to reduce power bills as the energy they use would come first from batteries, on then from the grid.
With the right combination of PowerWall (storage) and solar panels (collection) along with an appropriate inverter, many of that 1.5 million could be close to eliminating their demand on the grid completely. Its also worth keeping in mind that PowerWall is a technology that scales (up to 9) with the only limiting factor being cost.
The most difficult question for the government to solve is how private power providers continue to get paid and make profits without jacking the service charges to supply the odd kW here or there. Many users are already reporting that service charges are increasing and make up a far higher percentage of their bill than usage costs.
Right now battery technology is expensive, but we know it works and its available right now. It has no emissions like the clean coal-power stations, so if we’re going to invest millions of tax-payer dollars into a solution, lets make sure its the right one.
More information at Inside Edison.