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Tesla Switches on Giant Battery To Shore Up Australia's Grid (reuters.com) 173

Tesla switched on the world's biggest lithium ion battery on Friday in time to feed Australia's shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or give it free. From a report: "South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," state Premier Jay Weatherill said at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm Neoen. Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia, which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months. In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state's renewables push have argued that the battery is a "Hollywood solution" in a country that still relies on fossil fuels, mainly coal, for two-thirds of its electricity.

Tesla Switches on Giant Battery To Shore Up Australia's Grid

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) *

    Did they ship it fully loaded?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Did they divert this battery from Puerto Rico to a richer area?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        They had already started this before Puerto Rico and had a pre-set deadline.

      • Flip that question on it's head: Would you divert a bought and paid for product from your customer to some other customer knowing full well the result would incur significant financial penalties while at the same time doing nothing of value as this is designed to resolve an intermittent stability problem rather than Puerto Rico's lack of electricity problem?

    • Bulk lithium batteries are usually shipped at about 30% charge.

      Lower charge is bad for the battery. High charge is not good for the battery either, and is also a fire danger.

  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @02:21PM (#55659357)

    South Australia (and Australia generally) is a special case for renewable energy since it is a small continent, and sparsely inhabited.

    This is a fix for a remote corner in Australia, the edge of the 5th largest population center (Adelaide*) separated from it by 100 miles and isolated by hundreds of miles of emptiness from anywhere else. There is little redundant/backup infrastructure, or all that many people.

    More generally battery facilities shouldn't be needed in larger, more populous continents (North America, Eurasia).

    The solution to issues of variable power production is to connect the entire continent together with high voltage DC power lines (a nearly century old technology) which can ship power from one coast of North America to the other with losses of under 5%. You build enough excess solar and wind capacity that even under the worst conditions you still have enough for the entire continent (Canada and Mexico should be part of this grid also).

    This also allows using the sun out west to power the evening peak back east, and so forth, leveling out production/consumption mismatches.

    Pumped storage can service the entire grid since power can be transported long distances. The U.S. currently has enough pumped storage on-line to provide 2.2% of US grid capacity (and about twice this much more has been licensed), so it can be sited where ever geography makes it most convenient.

    We need some national-level vision to help bring this about (good luck with that at present), but mostly this can be done by private investment.

    *The greater metropolitan area of Adelaide has a population of 1,317,000 which is 77% of the entire population of South Australia (which is 50% larger than Texas). Things get really sparse really fast out past Adelaide's metro area.

    • Why HVDC? DC is a bitch to convert between voltage and current, and it (generally) is more dangerous at any given voltage, though to be fair at transmission voltage levels it makes little difference if you're a DC or AC flavored charcoal lump.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Lower transmission losses and connectivity between unsynchronized grids.

      • The GP noted

        which can ship power from one coast of North America to the other with losses of under 5%

        When you're sending power very long distances, where you're not tapping into it every few miles, the low losses of HVDC make a pretty big difference. Go take a look at a population density map of Australia, and it might make more sense. The GP is talking many hundreds or even thousands of miles of uninterrupted power transmission. At those extreme ranges, the losses are going to be the biggest issue.

        Sure, converting is an issue, but you're not doing that at more than a couple of places where yo

        • That is wrong.
          Why don't you read something sbout it?
          Transmission losses are in the 5% - 7% range.
          The longer the distance the higher you make the voltage, and you stay in those limits.

          • Yeah, the OP and I did read about it. That's why wrote what we wrote. Why don't you read about it, and come back with either some new knowledge or good link which explains why HVDC is a bad option for long-distance power transmission.

            • HVDC is not a bad option for long distance power transmissions.
              No idea why you claim that ...

              • Can you point to where I claimed that HVDC was a bad option for long distance power transmission? I was arguing the opposite in the first post of mine you responded to calling it wrong.

      • Most long-distance transmission is DC these days.

        AC requires the whole grid to be fully synchronous.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        • Actually most long range transports are AC.
          The biggest grid on the world spams from west Europ to Mongolia and East Russia.
          Probabl 15,000km ... and yes, it is synchronous.

        • AC requires the whole grid to be fully synchronous.

          Yes, and this is why your oven clock keeps accurate time for years. It is synchronized to the 60 (or 50) Hz input power. The grid then guarantees that they will generate, on average, exactly the specified 50/60 Hz frequency. The frequency changes slightly with load but it all averages out in the end.

          Not long ago there was a /. article talking about how the US has announced an end to the 60Hz promise - in ~20 years. The introduction of numerous solar panel installations has made it more difficult to m

          • There is a difference between running at the same frequency and running in phase.

            Secondly, the guarantee of instantaneous frequency isn't as accurate as you think. The reason that mains synchronous clocks keep good time is that there is a guarantee that there will be the correct number of cycles over a 24-hour period (or something like that). During the day, the frequency may slow slightly and increase at night.

            So, yes, grids are synchronous, but there are often multiple grids, which don't have a guarantee

          • Reading again, I see you addressed the variation in frequency. But you miss that DC is often good for long-distance transmission because it is connecting two independent grids.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Friday December 01, 2017 @03:25PM (#55659873)

        Why HVDC? DC is a bitch to convert between voltage and current, and it (generally) is more dangerous at any given voltage, though to be fair at transmission voltage levels it makes little difference if you're a DC or AC flavored charcoal lump.

        If your grid is disparate, then getting them into synchronicity can be a pain. With modern semiconductors, it is however possible to rectify and invert DC into AC quite painlessly.

        This is used for grids that have historically never been tied together, as well as new grids which never were synchronized. In Texas, there's a grid intertie that connects the three major US and Canadian grids together so power imbalances can be dealt with. But trying to synchronize the grids is a next to impossible problem, so the intertie uses HVDC internally so it's able to move power between the grids as necessary.

        I believe China has a HVDC distribution network for the same reason - too many little grids to synchronize up.

        HVDC systems do have lots of advantages over traditional AC systems.

        • I get the linking disparate grids, but GGP was saying that it would be a single unified grid, so... that issue doesn't apply.

          However, as I did decide that I should likely read up on it, I did.

          Among the other benefits of HVDC: Inductive loss and charge coupling, particularly in undersea cables, but also just to the air (I presume damper is worse), so over genuinely long assed distances this adds up to a few percent less loss than HVAC. A few percent of a 25GW+ grid is a *ton* of power, therefore, the hassl

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        Why HVDC? DC is a bitch to convert between voltage and current, and it (generally) is more dangerous at any given voltage, though to be fair at transmission voltage levels it makes little difference if you're a DC or AC flavored charcoal lump.

        For a given power, conduction losses are proportional to the resistance and square of the current so there is a premium on using the highest voltage possible. Corona and other AC losses are higher at crest factors greater than 1. These factors make DC more efficient and cost effective for long distance transmission even with conversion losses.

        Further, there are difficulties in synchronizing widely separated and large AC grids so there will be a conversion to DC and back to AC anyway. If this is done, the

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
      More populated continents will have greater demands in a populated area, so will still require some sort of energy storage for excess production to be used at night or when there is no wind/heavy cloud cover, etc. Kinetic storage would actually be cheaper for small scale application, but it doesn't have the media appeal of batteries for some reason. What is more advanced than space-age technology creating nearly zero friction flywheels that weight tons?! Some dumb ass with a big mouth making a temperature s
      • what's more advanced?

        Well NASA-invented Vanadium redox flow batteries for example. Useless for powering your car as they have to be big and are slow to release power but the fact that they retain their capacity for a much longer time and can be recycled very easily makes them perfect fit for grid-scale storage.

        Have a link to one company that makes these things:
        http://www.redtenergy.com/how-... [redtenergy.com]

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @02:56PM (#55659649)

      You build enough excess solar and wind capacity that even under the worst conditions you still have enough for the entire continent (Canada and Mexico should be part of this grid also).

      As a Canadian, I can already tell you that it will never work. Up north, we use metric electricity.

      • As a Canadian, I can already tell you that it will never work. Up north, we use metric electricity.

        Everyone uses metric electricity. Amps, Volts, and Watts are all metric units.

        In America, large electric motors are sometimes rated by horsepower instead of watts, but even that is increasingly uncommon.

      • You build enough excess solar and wind capacity that even under the worst conditions you still have enough for the entire continent (Canada and Mexico should be part of this grid also).

        As a Canadian, I can already tell you that it will never work. Up north, we use metric electricity.

        Are the electrons square or oval? They told me that electrons are in the shape of very small (microscope sized) ice-cubs

    • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @03:27PM (#55659891)

      South Australia (and Australia generally) is a special case for renewable energy since it is a small continent, and sparsely inhabited.

      This is a fix for a remote corner in Australia, the edge of the 5th largest population center (Adelaide*) separated from it by 100 miles and isolated by hundreds of miles of emptiness from anywhere else. There is little redundant/backup infrastructure, or all that many people.

      More generally battery facilities shouldn't be needed in larger, more populous continents (North America, Eurasia).

      Many folks may not fully appreciate the primary function of these batteries. It is not to levelize renewables, but rather to provide fast response to prevent overloads and voltage/frequency support when there is a sudden event on the system. That is because, as you say, they rely on a small number of lines and therefore don't have the networked/redundancy to maintain reliability. Adding new transmission lines for these long distances is expensive.

      With the batteries, if there is a transient event on the grid the hope is they provide voltage and frequency support to ride it through without some overload on a major line. Now that it is operational, it will be interesting to see how well that works and how often that support is needed.

      One important factor to note, when batteries need to be available for this type of support they must retain a certain percentage of capacity. They can also use them for renewable levelization or peaking support, but they don't want to discharge them too much or they may not be able to supply adequate voltage/frequency support when called upon. Full discharge/recharge cycles will likely not happen often.

      • This is one of the things that is often missed about the power outages in SA. One side is shouting OMG IT WAS TEH RENUABLS! while the other side is shouting OMG IT WAS THE TRANSMISSION TOWER THAT WAS KNOCKED OVER!

        The reality as always is in the middle. Yes a large transmission tower was knocked over, but the renewable kept generating and were happily powering a large portion of the state, or at least they would have if it weren't for a massive loss of synchronisation tripping offline wind farms, gas turbine

      • "but rather to provide fast response to prevent overloads and voltage/frequency support when there is a sudden event on the system" - this might become a problem of the past if power storage is distributed when more and more properties have battery storage (and EV) and are connected to a local microgrid
        • "but rather to provide fast response to prevent overloads and voltage/frequency support when there is a sudden event on the system" - this might become a problem of the past if power storage is distributed when more and more properties have battery storage (and EV) and are connected to a local microgrid

          Its not a common problem now, most grid networks have enough paths and redundancy. There is no plan, as far as I know, for any country to divide up into micro grids, but different people apply different meaning to that word.

    • Microgrids with HVDC interconnects address a number of issues, but wind is hard to make work without a fully dispatchable power source/sink. The best one available today is large hydro, but there are significant (environmental) issues with constructing more.

      The microgrids will always need a fossil fuel plus battery backup, as best I can see with the numbers available to me.

    • They could put solar on every roof (where its possible) and attach a battery to it, they can then all be linked locally into a microgrid and when all microgrids are linked together across the country into the grid itself, they can then become the "grid" storage with every single battery (no matter how its charged) and EV battery connected to it as the storage solution.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What people don't realize is that the electric grid is on demand; there has never before been a battery system. The power requirements of society must be monitored continuously, and generators must not only be put online as demand increases, but must also be taken offline as demand decreases.

    This has been one of the problems with the growth of solar panels in Hawaii. Those panels would dump more electricity into the grid than was needed, causing outages as safety mechanisms kicked in. Until batteries have b

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      The power requirements of society must be monitored continuously, and generators must not only be put online as demand increases, but must also be taken offline as demand decreases.

      Or instead of managing supply, manage demand, in the same way eBay prevents too many people from winning the same auction. So instead of putting a generator online as demand increases (or the wind stops blowing), reduce demand until that generator isn't needed.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      What you say also works on the assumption that batteries will also be able to accept that charge (i.e. not already fully charged) in order to act as a sink for that spare energy.

      Once you charge the batteries up, you only get a trickle of losses being consumed and all that spare electric just sits on the grid still.

      There's a reason that things like water pumps are used to pump water uphill above reservoirs in times of surplus - because it's a constant sink whether or not you bother to re-capture that water l

    • Solar is very predictable; easy enough to plan for and work around. The problem with "too much" solar is when it exceeds about 75% of base load requirements. The problem with dumb grids is that protection for reverse power flows and disparate flow on individual circuits... along with overloading transformers.

      Wind is much harder though. It cycles on a multi-day basis, which makes it harder to rely on except as a low-cost source when other dispatchable sources can easily be curtailed.

  • Hollywood Solutions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by citylivin ( 1250770 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @02:28PM (#55659417)

    Star Trek's PADD device was a hollywood solution too. Until it wasn't.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      It's still a Hollywood solution to anything but media consumption.

      • my PADD makes phone calls, does business email & scheduling, is part of a multi-factor auth system, orders stuff and pays bills.

        maybe yours is broken if it only does "consumption media"

  • Every home is an energy battery. This example isn't that big, but good on tesla for staying in the news cycle.
  • Elon Musk ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @02:48PM (#55659575) Journal
    An engineer who delivered one fourth of what Elon Musk has delivered will be assured of a place in Engineering Hall of Fame. But what he has delivered is still a fraction of what he promised to deliver and he will be judged by how much he fell short...

    He might end up a pauper dying alone in a hotel room like his inspiration, Nicholi. Or he might actually deliver enough of what he promised to be ranked along with Whitney, Colt, Edison, Westinghouse, Ford as the leading light of American Industry....

    • It's actually spelled "Nikola" - assuming you're talking about the Tesla the company is named for.

    • He might end up a pauper dying alone in a hotel room like his inspiration, Nicholi.

      No haha. He has enough money that all he has to do is not lose it.......that is, get investments from elsewhere instead of personally investing his own money. And he's very good at raising money from elsewhere.

      So even if all his current ventures fail (which they won't), he's still doing really well.

    • Anything is possible when you spend $500,000 an hour......
  • by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @02:59PM (#55659667) Homepage Journal

    This is so funny. Here comes Musk--again--makes a big boast "Battery in 100 days or it is free!" Beats his own goal, turns on the battery, and some people here just can't stand it. Musk wins. You lose. Get over yourselves.

    • by linuxguy ( 98493 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @04:40PM (#55660553) Homepage

      This is not the same Slashdot that many remember from the old days. It is now filled with grumpy old naysayers and griefers.

    • A 50 million dollar sale for a company that burns 500K an hour doesn't really seem like a big deal.
      • That one sale is not the only part of the business that they have going. And Tesla is making massive capital investments for future sales of Model 3's and batteries for car/grid/home applications.

        I think they have bitten off a lot to demonstrate actual cost-effective and rapid mass production of Model 3's, and continue to scale up the Gigafactory. Is their burn rate really unusual given the business plan they are currently following? Also, are they actually spending at a rate of $4.4B/year?

        • Also, are they actually spending at a rate of $4.4B/year?

          Yes, google it if you must. For all we know this battery installation cost them 100M and was done for publicity purposes. Still impressed?
    • Well, Steve Jobs is dead.
      The fanboi haters need a new target.

    • I am not a finance guy, but I follow quite a few online.

      I am and have *consistently* seen breakdowns of the finances of $TSLA for about the past 6-12 months where people are entirely baffled how the stock remains at the current price.

      My understanding is, they are completely running the whole thing poorly, they're not profitable, things are hugely delayed, they are burning through cash like crazy.

      I am unsure if this is all true, but I can say, I'm seeing it posted online a LOT. I'd like to see Musk 'win' I

  • And what shall we do with said battery when it has outlived its usefulness?
    • Only willfully ignorant people don't already know the answer to that question.

    • And what shall we do with said battery when it has outlived its usefulness?

      There is this new concept.. Recycling.

      It's where we take old things and make new things out of them. You should read up on it.

  • Weatherill (the South Australian Premier who is trying to enjoy his last few days in the sun, before he gets voted out of power) has also bought 276 MW of diesel fuelled generators "the state Labor government will purchase nine new GE TM2500 aero derivative turbines through APR Energy, providing up to 276 MW of generation to the grid when required." . These of course will be very useful for providing baseload power when the wind doesn't blow.

    • Last days in the sun, lol, the Liberal National coalltion is so incredibly hopeless in SA, they will never win government.
      Note for US readers, the Liberal party here is the right wing party.

      • Recently, the 30% of homes with solar in SA were supplying 60% of the states energy needs.
        Another 30 and we wont need anything other than storage.
        I generate more than I use from a 2Kw high end solar rig that cost only 4k aud.
        When Inget my own battery, i will not use the grid at all.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday December 01, 2017 @05:30PM (#55660971) Journal

    I was under the impression that Australia already had substantial industrial-scale power grid energy storage using vanadium redox flow batteries.

    Seems to me that's a better match to the problem - unless Tesla has made drastic improvements in cost and cycle-life as a fallout of their work to improve them for cars and house-scale renewable storage.

    Lithium Ion batteries are, IMHO, more about portability of energy storage than price-efficiency.

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