Tesla Lights Up the Outback

Photo Courtesy : Tesla
Tesla, Inc.’s new solar Powerwall batteries

Jorja Gwaltney/Correspondent

South Australia has the highest electricity prices in the world.  The coal-fired stations are decaying and causing a shortage that natural gas has not been able to fix.  Not to mention that the fuel they are using is being exported to higher-paying buyers outside of Australia, so they are not getting as much as they need, causing the high prices and frequent blackouts.  The price for power back in Aug. 2017 in Australia was 47.13¢ per kilowatt-hour, or kWh.  They beat out Denmark by 2.35¢, as well as the U.S. sitting at 15.75¢ per kWh.  The most recent attempt to help the residents of Australia is Tesla, Inc. working in tandem with the SA State government to start up a virtual power plant and provide and install free solar panels to 50,000 homes in the next four years.  $32 million in government grants will get the project started, plus an additional $800 million from private investors.  The South Australian government website defines exactly what a virtual power plant does and how it works: “A virtual power plant is created by a network of home solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery systems all working together to generate, store and feed energy back into the grid.  Energy from the home solar and battery systems installed as a part of this virtual power plant will provide electricity for the house on which they are installed.  Any excess energy generated by the system will be automatically dispatched to the grid.  This dispatched energy will be centrally controlled to meet the needs of the grid, providing additional energy to the rest of the state, when it is required.”  The program is intended to lower the electricity costs for these initial households.  According to the state government, the program should save the participants 30% on their electricity bills.  They are starting with 1,100 public homes, installing solar panels and the home batteries.  According to tesla.com, “Solar Roof integrates with the PowerWall home battery, allowing you to use solar energy whenever you choose and providing uninterrupted electricity during grid outages.”  They also say that the PowerWall charges during the day so you can utilize its energy whenever you need it.  It also allows the solar panels to produce energy during blackouts.