Tesla’s big battery prevents blackouts in SA

South Australia’s new lithium-ion battery has “helped take the straw off the camel’s back”, according to a new report.

The Australia Institute has released the latest electricity update of its National Energy Emissions Audit, which assessed how Tesla’s 100MW battery has performed since it was installed at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in December last year.

It found the battery has helped stabilise the state’s energy demand and prevent blackouts in the state.

“During January, the Hornsdale Power Reserve ‘big battery’ was used daily to charge overnight, when wind generation is often abundant and cheap, and discharge in the late afternoon, when total demand and spot market prices usually reach peak levels, demonstrating the very valuable role that energy storage can play in the operation of an electricity supply system with high levels of renewable generation,” the review said.

While total battery capacity is 100MW, energy flows are capped at 30MW, with the remaining 70MW held in reserve to provide frequency control services, contributing to the security of the grid.

While 30MW only represents one per cent of the peak demand in the review period (February 6-8), the review stated it was “true but not particularly relevant”.

“The experience of operating Hornsdale Power Reserve already demonstrates that multiple smaller energy storage facilities, which will certainly include both batteries and small pumped hydro projects, located close to wind and solar generators, are almost certainly better suited to matching variable supply with varying demand than a single monster project located a thousand kilometres or more away, via multiple transmission lines which often reach saturation capacity when demand for electricity reaches peaks,” the review said.

Energy analyst and report author Hugh Saddler told The Guardian the battery was working in “smooth synergy with wind farms”.

“Peak wind production is easily the cheapest way to charge the battery, and it stands ready to fill demand gaps if they emerge,” he said.

“The battery has been charging up overnight, when prices are very low and hitting the grid at the right time to keep price spikes lower than they would be otherwise.

“While the watts may seem small in the context of the whole system, the SA battery is providing critical power at the critical moment – in effect taking the straw off the camel’s back.”

The report also found carbon emissions within Australia’s power sector were the lowest in January for 14 years.

This is largely attributable to the success of the country’s large-scale energy target, which aims to source 33,000GWh of electricity from renewables by 2020.