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The Almighty Buck Australia Power

Tesla's Giant Battery In Australia Reduced Grid Service Cost By 90 Percent (electrek.co) 251

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla's giant Powerpack battery in Australia has been in operation for about 6 months now and we are just starting to discover the magnitude of its impact on the local energy market. A new report now shows that it reduced the cost of the grid service that it performs by 90% and it has already taken a majority share of the market. It is so efficient that it reportedly should have made around $1 million in just a few days in January, but Tesla complained last month that they are not being paid correctly because the system doesn't account for how fast Tesla's Powerpacks start discharging their power into the grid.

The system is basically a victim of its own efficiency, which the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed is much more rapid, accurate and valuable than a conventional steam turbine in a report published last month. Now McKinsey and Co partner Godart van Gendt presented new data at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne this week and claimed that Tesla's battery has now taken over 55% of the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) services and reduced cost by 90%.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve (the official name of the Tesla big battery, owned and operated by Neoen), the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," said Gendt via Reneweconomy. "And the 100MW battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."

Tesla's Giant Battery In Australia Reduced Grid Service Cost By 90 Percent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2018 @11:37PM (#56599488)

    ...can it keep an iPhone X powered for 24 hours?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2018 @11:45PM (#56599510)

    Imagine five or ten of these in America.

    It'd be a real infrastructure project that would benefit people.

    Oh wait, not under this Congress.

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter&tedata,net,eg> on Friday May 11, 2018 @11:58PM (#56599530) Journal

    Is in what is called "ancillary services".

    An ongoing issue with operating and maintaining an electrical grid is how to balance electrical generation with electrical consumption. The two vary throughout the day; for example, solar energy adds a surge of power to the grid during sunlight hours, while peak consumer demand for electricity happens around 7-8pm. If you have five minutes, I suggest you watch this video [youtube.com], produced by Vox, discussing it further.

    How do electrical companies then compensate for the differences? Or for contingencies, like when an electrical generator needs to be brought offline for emergencies or maintenance? This is where "ancillary services" [wikipedia.org] plays a vital importance. Utilities are desperate to find an efficient way to store surplus power generated when supply is higher than demand, so that it can then be released when demand is higher than supply. Currently, when supply is too high, it is reduced (ex: solar panels and wind turbines turned off), wasting energy. When supply is too low, expensive generators are brought online to meet demand. But if we can make battery technology cost-efficient to store surplus electricity for peak-demand use, it would save vast sums of money, as this article highlights.

    My only real concern is how much battery waste this will lead to. Cells need to be replaced every 3-5 years. Until superconductors or high-energy-plasma devices become reality, the only somewhat-environmentally-safe way to store energy long-term is thermal. Hopefully molten-salt storage technology [greentechmedia.com] succeeds in this regard.

    • . Utilities are desperate to find an efficient way to store surplus power generated when supply is higher than demand, so that it can then be released when demand is higher than supply.

      If more cars were electric, the utilities could store all that surplus power in the cars' batteries, no? Which the cars will then use during the next day's commute.

      • Only if the cars are plugged in while at the office. I'd bet that most are plugged in at home, overnight, and thus would not work very well for load smoothing.

        • I see what you're saying. But isn't having that surplus power sold off to charge cars and then the cars using it to commute a form of load leveling? If cars charge overnight, that's when electricity use is ordinarily low. I'm sure there's a lot I'm not taking into consideration, plus I've been drinking since 11am, so I don't have a clue.

          • Overnight charging is an excellent use to pick up extra capacity in baseload generation. However, that extra capacity is there precisely because baseload has long response times, and so is hard to throttle. It doesn't really do anything to reduce needed generation the next day.
            As someone else noted, solar is daytime, and I think in most areas wind generation works better during the day. Tidal generation though is pretty much time independent.

          • I see what you're saying. But isn't having that surplus power sold off to charge cars and then the cars using it to commute a form of load leveling?

            No, not really. For one thing, the cars can't be charged any other time. For another, they don't offer load leveling until they can be coaxed into giving up some of their power. For example, let's say you have a 120 mile commute and a car with a 200 mile range. You could leave yourself 20 miles of fudge factor and still sell back part of that power during the midday, when it's needed most and your car is sitting around connected to the charging infrastructure. So not only can you charge when the power is ch

        • It would be dumb in the future NOT to have them plugged at the workplace when that's the time when they could also be charged from solar arrays. AND, in addition to that, recharging them in the afternoon while load-shedding in the order of owners' preferred electricity costs reshapes the duck curve somewhat.
        • "Only if the cars are plugged in while at the office. "

          In this case you'll get _paid_ for charging your car, only a moron wouldn't plug it in.

        • A lot of people live in apartment buildings where they can't plug in the car at night. Plugging it in at the office would be a good alternative.

      • If more cars were electric, the utilities could store all that surplus power in the cars' batteries, no?

        Ideally yes. In practice it comes with a number of technical difficulties all of which can eventually be overcome.

        What I'm pituring here is some sort of smart meters (not the current gen of wifi connected dumb meters with crappy security), but ones which are aware of the demand in realtime and can instrcut devices to either draw electricity from the grid or put it back.

        First, they need top notch security.

        • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

          Have a look at this as part of the solution (the smart mobile metering):

          http://www.earth.org.uk/note-o... [earth.org.uk]

          and another company I know well, Upside:

          https://upsideenergy.co.uk/ [upsideenergy.co.uk]

          I also think that we're missing some smaller-scale software-based solutions available already:

          http://www.earth.org.uk/Hey-Si... [earth.org.uk]

          Rgds

          Damon

          • I don't doubt it's possible and it's not even hard from a technical point of view. It's just that with tens of gigawatts with subsecond response time responding to on-demand pricing (which has a lag), there could be problems with grid-scale oscillations. And that's ignoring the problems with poor security and potential for maniuplation.

            • by DamonHD ( 794830 )

              Avoiding oscillations is potentially the easy part. Ddistributed and robust algorithms are already in use, even if not in this precise application yet.

              1) Do a local slow/no charge override based on local frequency and voltage measurements. That's protective at the simplest level, though can go wrong (see May 2008 GB grid blackouts for 500l people from problems with misconfigured G59 gear). Slightly randomise disconnection times based on severity of voltage/frequency dip.

              2) Randomise reconnection with som

        • What I'm pituring here is some sort of smart meters (not the current gen of wifi connected dumb meters with crappy security), but ones which are aware of the demand in realtime and can instrcut devices to either draw electricity from the grid or put it back.

          This kind of technology already exists. Industrial AC units are already being controlled by power companies, who determine when thou shalt have cooling based on aggregate demand.

          I don't think it will ever happen this way though.

          I think it will happen, and soon.

          • This kind of technology already exists.

            Yep.

            Industrial AC units are already being controlled by power companies, who determine when thou shalt have cooling based on aggregate demand.

            And they're much more expensice and tightly controlled than domestic units. The problem isn't the technology for remotely switching on and off power based on demand (or even switching from demand to supply). The problem is scaling it up to a substantial fraction of domestic users without causing serious problems due to nasty chea

            • The problem isn't the technology for remotely switching on and off power based on demand (or even switching from demand to supply). The problem is scaling it up to a substantial fraction of domestic users without causing serious problems due to nasty cheap low security units.

              If history is any indication, they will damn the security, and go full speed ahead.

              • If history is any indication, they will damn the security, and go full speed ahead.

                That unfortunately seems more than likely. Damn security or quality or playing nicely with others in any regard. My guess is that what will happen in that adoption will be slow but steady until the point where it starts causing problems (it's only a problem when the number gets large enough). I think the general crappiness will initially be the dominant factor not security.

                At that point, either power companies will start enfo

    • But molten-salt is ultimately just another steam generator; it can't act as a capacitor, smoothing surge in milliseconds like these cells do. We STILL need them, no matter what technology we use to generate power.

      What will probably be the reality, once we finally get over the suicidal idiocy that is Big Energy as we know it, will be a multi-tier approach with primary generation, 24-72 hour storage like molten salt, and finally high-surge storage like this Tesla project. This of course will be fought every

      • The current method for keeping the frequency stable is lots of plants with heavy turbines and generators spinning at high speed - 3000 or 3600 RPM. If load increases or decreases, it takes time for all this mass to speed up or slow down, and this keeps the frequency stable.

        Molten salt plants use these same, heavy steam turbines, and so will act to keep the network stable like traditional plants.

        It is when this first system is not enough that batteries and gas turbines come online, to support the network

      • Molten salt as storage for electric energy makes no sense. (No heat based storage makes sense; unless, you really want to get rid of the electricity and you simply only want to reuse the heat, e.g. in a bakery)
        Assume you have 100MWh to sore, you probably get 95MWh into the salt.
        And as any heat engine hardly can beat the 42% barrier of efficiency, you get maximum 40MWh back from the molten salt.
        Pumped storage round trip is close to 90%
        Storing it in a battery is close to 99%
        Storing it in a EV is also close to

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2018 @01:15AM (#56599666)

      Flat-out wrong on the battery lifespan, to be honest.

      3-5 years is what a laptop battery is expected to provide, 3 years when kept at 100% (which is bad for them) and randomly without warning discharged down super low (which is bad for them) instead of the long-lifecycle capacity patterns that fixed ground installations can use because weight is not really an issue.

      http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries goes into a lot more math, but even EVs limit their batteries to the 25%-85% overall cell capacity for that reason. Fixed installations like this PowerBank can limit it further as needed, generally to the 45%-75% range as design parameters (so only charging to 4.0V instead of the "full" 4.2V per cell) and attempting to keep things in the 65-75% range as much as possible.

      In the use-case of this power bank? It's meant to cover the first milliseconds and provide brief power dumps to cover other surges, allowing power generation that takes minutes to shift as load changes. So it's very likely staying inside of that 65-75 sweet-spot and these batteries will last 10+ years without a problem.

      - WolfWings, too lazy to login to /.

      • by q_e_t ( 5104099 )
        Even if degraded then assuming there is space and maintenance costs are not too high the asset can be further sweated. Potentially, they could be offered to a remanufacturer to provide low cost storage for home PV.
    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @01:15AM (#56599668)

      My only real concern is how much battery waste this will lead to.

      Lithium-ion batteries are 100% recyclable. Currently they are not recycled due to economics but that will change in the future either due to regulation or a shift in economics.

      Cells need to be replaced every 3-5 years.

      Actually, for grid scale stuff it's more likely to be every 20 years because they do not need to function at 100% capacity and Tesla has developed excellent technology to prolong the lifespan of their batteries due to their use in EVs. However, that's just for current battery technology. Solid state lithium-ion battery cells should have an increased the capacity and lifespan.

      the only somewhat-environmentally-safe way to store energy long-term is thermal.

      Wrong. Lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries are both sustainable solutions.

      • Lithium-ion batteries are 100% recyclable.

        Is that really true? Last time I checked, nobody had come up with a way to reuse 100% of the electrolyte. They can reclaim all of the cobalt (when used) and some 80% of the lithium, but much of the chemistry is neutralized and then incinerated.

        • It should be noted that recycling and reusing (for the same purpose) are not the same thing. However, nobody has come up with a way to fully recycle Lithium-ion batteries economically (due to the low price of lithium) which is quite different than nobody being able to do it. Obviously that will change as lithium becomes more scarce. Also, there is little need to worry about the electrolyte since solid state Lithium-ion batteries are going to become the new norm.

          • Also, there is little need to worry about the electrolyte since solid state Lithium-ion batteries are going to become the new norm.

            When that happens, I'll stop worrying. Until then, a lot of constituents of electrolyte have to be disposed of.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2018 @03:34AM (#56599890)

      There's a NOVA show called search for the super battery. Lithium (like tesla's) is great for cars and phones because it's lightweight and stores a reasonable charge, but somewhat expensive. After talking about lithium batteries they said pretty much anything (not nobles) could be made into a battery. Then they put up a list of the most abundant elements in the earth's crust (among them Si, S, and O) and said if you didn't mind a battery that was large and heavy, pretty soon there'll be batteries made out of that stuff cheaply. The ingredients are plentiful and making them was cheaper, for example no need for a humidity-controlled clean room meant they could be made on a large but efficient assembly line with machines made for food handling. Also nontoxic, the interviewer scooped some up and ate it, said it tasted like sand.

      So yeah, Australia, Nevada, and Texas all have plenty of vacant land they could put big, heavy, cheap batteries on, and store power with. Save the lithium for batteries that go places.

      • Also nontoxic, the interviewer scooped some up and ate it

        To be fair, industry reps did the same thing in live presentations about tetraethyl lead.

    • Is in what is called "ancillary services".

      An ongoing issue with operating and maintaining an electrical grid is how to balance electrical generation with electrical consumption. The two vary throughout the day; for example, solar energy adds a surge of power to the grid during sunlight hours, while peak consumer demand for electricity happens around 7-8pm. If you have five minutes, I suggest you watch this video [youtube.com], produced by Vox, discussing it further.

      How do electrical companies then compensate for the differences? Or for contingencies, like when an electrical generator needs to be brought offline for emergencies or maintenance? This is where "ancillary services" [wikipedia.org] plays a vital importance. Utilities are desperate to find an efficient way to store surplus power generated when supply is higher than demand, so that it can then be released when demand is higher than supply. Currently, when supply is too high, it is reduced (ex: solar panels and wind turbines turned off), wasting energy. When supply is too low, expensive generators are brought online to meet demand. But if we can make battery technology cost-efficient to store surplus electricity for peak-demand use, it would save vast sums of money, as this article highlights.

      My only real concern is how much battery waste this will lead to. Cells need to be replaced every 3-5 years. Until superconductors or high-energy-plasma devices become reality, the only somewhat-environmentally-safe way to store energy long-term is thermal. Hopefully molten-salt storage technology [greentechmedia.com] succeeds in this regard.

      Ancillary services are generally not load peaking support but rather VAR and frequency control in relatively rare/extreme conditions, for short durations.

    • > Cells need to be replaced every 3-5 years

      Where does this number come from?
      =Smidge=

    • by Socguy ( 933973 )
      I'm not sure where you get the idea that the cells need to be replaced every 3-5 years. The cells Tesla uses in the power packs are rated for 5000 full cycles before degrading to 80% of their original capacity. If they cycled from 100% to 0% every single day of the year they would last 13.7 years. If you had to replace them every 5 years then it would mean that the system was completely filling and draining more than 2X per day. The reality of the system and the way it is being used is more likely to se
  • Getting paid? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @12:59AM (#56599640)
    If Tesla is not getting paid because the accounting system can't keep up with their service profile, isn't some part of 90% savings due to the fact that the consumer isn't paying the bill? If so, how much of it?
    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Presumably, the market price is sampled every 5 to 10 minutes. If demand becomes too close to supply levels for one of these periods, the open market cost goes up, new power stations are brought in line until the open market cost goes down again. Tesla's battery activates within a minute, so the market price doesn't change. The market system pricing only needs to be sampled as the speed of the power plant with the shortest activation time.

    • Re:Getting paid? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @03:04AM (#56599850)

      Tesla got paid. It's Neoen who may not be getting paid, because the system is re-optimised in 15 minute increments, and Hornsdale responds much faster than that. They are working on 5-minute settlements now. [aemo.com.au]

      • They should try reacting as slowly as normal sources of power and see how Australia likes going backwards. Kind of like Google delisting something in response to complaints :p

    • Re:Getting paid? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Saturday May 12, 2018 @04:00AM (#56599914) Homepage Journal

      My understanding is that the model is based on slow spin-up fossil plants, and doesn't accurately account for a battery that can go from 0 to 100% in a fraction of a second.

      • Re:Getting paid? (Score:5, Informative)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday May 12, 2018 @06:23AM (#56600094)

        My understanding is that the model is based on slow spin-up fossil plants, and doesn't accurately account for a battery that can go from 0 to 100% in a fraction of a second.

        That is correct. The fastest Frequency Control and Ancillary Services market in Australia is billed in 6 second changes and this is the primary of the 8 FCAS markets that the Tesla battery operates in. This is the same market used by emergency systems such as load-shedding / rapid loading. We used to participate in the latter service where I worked as we had some small gas turbines on site. The AEMO's control system could request setpoint changes every 4 seconds. So if somewhere a power plant tripped off line, it would be several seconds before AEMO knew, several seconds more for them to send us a signal, and then up to a minute for us to add a pathetically small about of power to or from the grid in response, and that's assuming we don't trip our turbines on load as a response to the swinging demand.

        https://www.aemo.com.au/-/medi... [aemo.com.au] This report details some of the performance differences compared to conventional FCAS providers. Specifically the two graphs on page 6 are quite telling. As is the following quote:
        "The Market Ancillary Services Specification (MASS), which specifies each market ancillary service, and how it is to be quantified, does not address performance requirements for regulation FCAS. All regulation FCAS is essentially considered to be equal and interchangeable, and providers are paid the same price per MW of enabled service, regardless of performance." And that is Tesla's main gripe.

        Additionally there is the contingency response. On page 7 of the above report is shown how Tesla's battery added 20MW to correct a frequency event as a result of a coal plant tripping offline in less than 5 seconds. Tesla started correcting the issue before the AEMO would even have sent a signal out that there was a problem. And again the note says they don't get paid for this awesome performance.

        The AEMO have been talking about adding a sub 1second market to the FCAS and overhauling the FCAS market since early last year. And so has every other major grid operator around the world as this fast technology comes on to the market. A lot of research has been done into this not only because the likes of Telsa want to get paid to play, but also if more of these services come online and the control system is incapable of reacting fast enough then it could lead to more instabilities than they were trying to solve in the first place.

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          The system operator (AEMO) needs to overhaul its policies and procedures for control as well as billing. Something that can 'jump on' to the grid faster than the operator can schedule power reserves and bring them on line risks system instability. Once you have a bunch of (competing) battery operators and they all sense the frequency sag, you can't have them all cranking up their outputs at once in an uncoordinated fashion.

          It's going to be interesting, what with some of the old timers in the power business

    • isn't some part of 90% savings due to the fact that the consumer isn't paying the bill?

      The problem here is one of sampling. When you provide a service that occurs faster than than your customer can record for it and account for it, it's a tall order to ask the customer to pay for something that they can't even see happening or having any effect.

      To be clear everyone knows what is going on on both sides of the transaction here, but philosophically it's like me charging you for my mythical powers keeping the terrorists from killing you. Have you been killed by a terrorist today? Of course not. I

  • Seriously, any of the old coal plants that are being shut down, would be ideal to simply install a heavily insulated salt tank and use it for converting excess electricity to heat and then load following as needed. It could be backed up by nat gas if needed. Nice cheap way to convert old equipment into cheap storage.
    • Converting a high quality form of energy - electricity - into a low grade form (heat) to store it is a terrible idea. The conversion rate for solar thermal is only about 40%. Some form if kinetic or potential energy are much better - several can do 80% or better.

  • by AbRASiON ( 589899 ) * on Saturday May 12, 2018 @09:41PM (#56602286) Journal

    I've seen pics of these batteries dozens of times, they appear to be in a fairly arid region of South Australia.

    Why on earth is there not a simple tarpaulin / tent or something set up above the batteries to significantly reduce the heat on them? Surely they get, bloody hot and it damages them over time.

    Since I'm not an engineer, I'll assume there's a very logical explanation.

    I Will say though, if you don't know, SA can get very very hot, near as high as 50c at times, an metal box in the desert would likely exceed that even.

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