Tesla's enormous battery amazes in quick outage response

energy
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Tesla Motors' grid storage battery in South Australia, switched on at just the beginning of December, has already shown it is up to the job of serving as a backup system in South Australia. Its quick response is the stuff of which energy-watching headlines are made.

Steve Hanley in CleanTechnica looked at the Tesla chronicle of events in Australia.

At the beginning of December, the giant 129 MWh system was activated. Mid-month, the Loy Yang coal plant went offline. The Tesla system kicked in within 140 milliseconds [0.14 seconds].

Elon Musk's massive battery responding so fast with 100 megawatts of juice was a surprise. Less than a month after this backup power system in South Australia was unveiled, the battery is showing its merit, said supporters.

International Business Times quoted State Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, who had remarked that "the national operators were shocked at how quickly and efficiently the battery was able to deliver this type of energy."

The world's largest lithium-ion battery is called the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery system. "Hornsdale's backup solution has ended up stabilizing the electrical ," said Green Matters.

"The battery is paired to the neighbouring Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by French company Neoen," said The Guardian, in a previous report. It will store and dispatch energy generated by a nearby wind farm. (The electricity stored in the Hornsdale Power Reserve comes from wind turbines.) Fast Company in early December described the battery as the size of a football field and capable of powering 30,000homes.

Brian Fung, The Washington Post, noted that the Hornsdale battery system uses the same energy-storage tech found in Tesla's electric cars.

Hanley reported that power suddenly surged into the grid, "buying valuable time for other power sources to come to the rescue." CleanTechnica also made the point that, while battery systems like the one supplied by Tesla cannot handle all the chores of a stable grid, "its presence within the grid structure prevented a cascading grid failure that could have left hundreds of thousands of customers without power."

Their injections are long enough for other backup systems to take over when ready.

Andrew Thorpe in The Observer made a similar point. "The Hornsdale Power Reserve isn't designed to provide large-scale, base load power—but rather to kick in quickly to stabilise the energy grid—the point is an important one."

Brian Spaen in Green Matters said in that 0.14 seconds, the battery was able to inject over seven megawatts into the national grid. "Normally, the Gladstone power station hosting a backup generator would kick in, taking anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to put power into the . Tesla's batteries, located 621 miles away from the Loy Yang plant, was able to accomplish this task in a fraction of a second."

Spaen said the response was faster than the Australian Market Energy Operator's ability to record it. "It takes up to six seconds for the emergency shift at the backup coal generator to respond, and the battery's action ran circles around it."


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Dec 30, 2017
Uh, yeah. It's an overgrown UPS. Why wouldn't it react quickly? The problem isn't speed. The problem is capacity. It might give them just enough time to spool up a gas turbine --if there are enough people to react fast enough, and nothing goes wrong.

That said, with a reaction time like this, it may be worth installing a few of these things on the grid as a stopgap to keep failures from cascading in to larger and larger problems. Even if all it can do is to buy a few minutes, that would be enough for the ISOs to figure out what to let go and what to keep so that none of the base load generators trip.

Dec 31, 2017
Hmm, given how explosively lithium batteries burn that site should be a primary terrorist target. I hope it's not near anything else especially housing.

Dec 31, 2017
This is an expensive solution to a self-imposed problem caused by carelessly rushing to replace reliable base load power plants with unreliable 13th century technology.

Dec 31, 2017
@ asksdad - wind turbines are not 13th century tech. Turbines use the same principles as an aircraft wing - http://wind.jmu.e...ine.html You are correct that climate change is a self imposed problem - and we are facing down a massive beast of a problem. Developing new technologies to generate low emission power and transportation is critical - I don't agree that the urgency is 'careless.' The fact that we are able to generate home grown power systems - that break countries dependency on buying fossil fuels from other countries (see Europe and nat gas for example) is certainly a plus. Generating cheaper power - https://qz.com/10...thdraws/ then becomes a win/win/win - cheaper/cleaner/home grown.

Dec 31, 2017
"Turbines use the same principles as an aircraft wing"


So do 13th century windmills. The builders may not have understood exactly why it works, but that doesn't mean it operated by magic.

The distinction between a windmill and a wind turbine is semantical as far as the physics goes, because even with a flat plate angled into the wind, there's the very same lift and drag forces present. Some forces are generated directly by deflection of the airstream, and others are caused by pressure differentials.

Windmills and wind turbines do not work on fundamentally different principles - they are operating on the same principles and merely optimized for different use cases.

Dec 31, 2017
"
This is an expensive solution to a self-imposed problem caused by carelessly rushing to replace reliable base load power plants with unreliable 13th century technology."


The 13th century windmill would be more reliable from a power delivery standpoint, compared to the modern 3-blade turbines, because they are optimized to operate at significantly lower wind speeds which are available for more hours in a year.

Essentially, windmill design is a compromize between the turbine's maximum power/energy delivery, and the coefficient of power which can be understood as the reliability of delivery. You can easily design a windmill that puts out steady power 60-70% of the time by sacrificing maximum power output.

With subsidies placed on every kWh produced by wind power, and right-of-way laws on renewable electricity on the grid, manufacturers have optimized to put out the maximum amount at the expense of predictable steady output, because they don't have to care.

Dec 31, 2017
So do 13th century windmills
No they don't. Windmills used the drag design. The wind essentially pushed the blade out of the way. The drag design is better for "slower rotational speeds, and higher torque capacities." The lift design uses the same principle as an aircraft wing - utilizing the pressure differential - caused by the different wind speeds flowing over the wing - and utilizing bernoulli's principle. To say that the design of modern day wind turbines is using 13th century technology - is just false. http://referaty.a...at-20404

Dec 31, 2017
and a thorium based mini nuke is the size of a railroad boxcar and generates full time power for that many homes for some 20 years without refueling. No ugly windmills. No extreme variability of output capability. Etc. Oh yeah, and they are significantly cheaper.

Dec 31, 2017
chuck - many of us hope that smr's will be a part of the energy mix of the future. Could you support your assertion that they are 'significantly cheaper' with some hard data? An example of a working reactor - with cost breakdown - giving us the per Kwh cost. I can give you hard data from the latest full size nukes - and it is significantly more expensive than wind or solar. Hinkley Point is not even built yet - and we are talking 12 cents a Kwh. Let us see your numbers.

Dec 31, 2017
"No they don't. Windmills used the drag design. The wind essentially pushed the blade out of the way."


That is simply a semantical trick. "Drag design" has no meaning.

First of all, a rotating windmill is not dragged along the wind because it stays put, it goes around in a circle. Secondly, the deflection of the airstream always causes a pressure differential, and vice versa.

This is just the age-old fight between whether airplanes fly because of the bernoulli principle or because of simple newtonian reaction "drag forces". The point is, the two descriptions of what is happening are inseparable: they both apply in all cases. In the end, the deflection of the airstream is what is causing a force, and a pressure differential is the necessary cause of any such deflection however it is caused.

Trying to make a distinction here, by calling one "drag force" and another something else, is simply confusion.

Jan 01, 2018
"Hinkley Point is not even built yet - and we are talking 12 cents a Kwh"


Hinkley Point is an obvious boondoggle that has nothing to do with the cost of nuclear power. It costs so much because EDF is piling on the losses of their previous projects and making the Brits pay.

Jan 01, 2018
"Trying to make a distinction here, by calling one "drag force" and another something else, is simply confusion" No it is not. A modern wind turbine is designed using the same principles as an airplane wing. A wind mill is not. They use different principles. The wind mill blade is basically pushed out of the way by the wind. I have provided references that explain that distinction.
In any case - what do you think has been said - when stating that wind turbines use 13th century technology? What is your point? (you are the one defending the point). Electric cars use 5,000 year old technology (the wheel). So what Eikka? In the 13th century they did not have electric generators did they? But so what? If the technology is working today - so what? It is good - right? Electricity from wind is cheaper/cleaner/home grown. Win win win. That is why it is doing so well in today's world.

Jan 01, 2018
"Hinkley Point is an obvious boondoggle that has nothing to do with the cost of nuclear power" It is a current day, real world example of the technology - with actual numbers to give us data. Please provide an alternative example - with actual data - if you want to discuss the cost of power from nukes. Interesting that congress has just nixed the nuclear ptc - as well as the wind ptc. So now we may get to really see the numbers. Here is an interesting quote that might help you with understanding the facts "Even with the prospect of receiving some federal support for the first 8 years of operation the PSC staff has determined that completion is uneconomic compared to an alternative involving natural gas using a reasonable price projection" And wind and solar are cheaper than gas now - from http://www.theene...tion-u-s

Jan 01, 2018
"a thorium based mini nuke is the size of a railroad boxcar and generates full time power for that many homes for some 20 years without refueling. No ugly windmills. No extreme variability of output capability. Etc. Oh yeah, and they are significantly cheaper."

Perhaps, if they existed, but they don't. Lots of problems yet to solve.

Jan 01, 2018
Otto writes: "Perhaps, if they existed, but they don't. Lots of problems yet to solve."

Well, there are a few things to consider here Otto; the first being they do exist. Oak Ridge ran a successful thorium reactor back in the 60's, that would be about 50 years ago.

Second, had government tax incentives not attempted to "pick a winner" by funding wind and solar development through tax considerations, while simultaneously burdening thorium development with absurd regulatory challenges, we'd have thorium based molten salt reactors now. We developed the technology. As it stands, India will be the most likely benefactor.

You should research this stuff a bit before spouting off nonsense.

Jan 01, 2018
Onions writes: "the PSC staff has determined that completion is uneconomic compared to an alternative involving natural gas"

Of course natural gas is cheaper, it's a well developed technology now in it's second or third generation.

There's no way to compare the costs of the two in the present, molten salt reactors are still prototypes that have been starved of funding and regulated out of business since the 50's.

Jan 01, 2018
The U.S. nuclear industry has received a great deal of government subsidy. https://www.taxpa...bsidies/ Considering that it is a very established industry (mid to late 50's) - one would think it should be able to stand on it's own two feet by now. I truly hope smr's are part of the energy mix of the future. Best data at this point says they cannot compete against wind and solar on price. Their consistent output would make them desirable due to lack of intermittency concerns. It seems we are in transition period right now - and wind and solar seem to have the edge. Time will tell. I agree that one should at least know how to use google when commenting. The u.s. is dropping the ptc on wind, and also nukes. So by backburner's reasoning - we should soon be seeing smr's. Of course nukes should be regulated - the risk is too great to not regulate.

Jan 01, 2018
"Well, there are a few things to consider here Otto; the first being they do exist. Oak Ridge ran a successful thorium reactor back in the 60's, that would be about 50 years ago"

-which was in no way a validated, tested, and prototyped commercial reactor, and which didn't work anyways.

"You should research this stuff a bit before spouting off nonsense"

-You should know the difference between unsuccessful test reactors and commercial reactors.

Or stay stupid and continue to advertise it.

Jan 01, 2018
Before bb whines "it was too successful wah", let's look at a few facts...

"problem of tritium in a molten-salt reactor. It was observed that about 6–10% of the calculated 54 Ci/day (2.0 TBq) production diffused out of the fuel system into the containment cell atmosphere and another 6–10% reached the air through the heat removal system."

-uh oh.

"shallow, inter-granular cracking in all metal surfaces exposed to the fuel salt. The cause of the embrittlement was tellurium - a fission product generated in the fuel."

-yikes.

"Sampling in 1994 revealed concentrations of uranium that created a potential for a nuclear criticality accident, as well as a potentially dangerous build-up of fluorine gas"

-oh noes!

"The ensuing decontamination and decommissioning project was called "the most technically challenging" activity assigned to Bechtel Jacobs"

-Nope. Not suitable for prime time. No siree bob.

yep
Jan 03, 2018
Molten salt reactors were squashed during Nixon's reign because they did not support the weapons complex and the large anti nuke backlash resulted in reduced funding.
They are on the way back with several projects around the world, the most exciting are the ones using spent fuel.
Sure would be nice to turn tens of centuries worth of waste into centuries of fuel.

Jan 05, 2018
"It is a current day, real world example of the technology - with actual numbers to give us data."


It's an example of the incompetence of Areva and EDF, not of the technology.
"wind and solar are cheaper than gas now"


No they're not, and the reference you gave did not support your assertion. Natural gas is vastly cheaper, and the price has dropped about 70% since 2008 to around $12/MWh for the fuel. Consequently, the electricity prices have plummeted as well.

https://www.eia.g...id=29632

Electricity prices down to $29/MWh in places thanks to cheap natural gas:

https://arstechni...g-built/

Jan 05, 2018
Meanwhile:
https://www.forbe...ef7f128c
"Why Do Federal Subsidies Make Renewable Energy So Costly?"


Solar energy is still getting around $70/MWh in subsidies, and wind power around $15/MWh on top of PPAs around $25-35/MWh which is the only thing that keeps them going. Without the subsidies, investments in renewables would all but stop entirely, as they are not competitive with natural gas, and natural gas has to back up and pick up the slack anyways, so there would be no missing capacity even if all the solar and wind generators went offline today. The renewables are essentially superfluous on the grid.

Nuclear power in turn becomes profitable around $40-50/MWh

Jan 06, 2018
Wind and solar are certainly coming in to their own - with unsubsidized cost coming in below all contenders. Eikka's article above states that nuclear does not receive direct subsidies - which is a total lie. "Recent tax breaks, loan guarantees, and direct subsidies to the nuclear industry are estimated to amount to more than $30 billion" From - https://www.taxpa...bsidies/ With Hinkley Point (being built by the French and the Chinese - 2 highly experienced nuclear countries) coming in at 12 cents Kwh and going up from there - nuclear cannot compete with the low cost of wind and solar.

Jan 19, 2018
" Eikka's article above states that nuclear does not receive direct subsidies - which is a total lie. "Recent tax breaks, loan guarantees, and direct subsidies to the nuclear industry are estimated to amount to more than $30 billion"


A loan guarantee is no money paid, nor any due money or tax avoided. It is not a direct subsidy, and counting it as such is a lie on your part.

All told, including the non-subsidies, the nuclear industry in the US recieves about $0.02/MWh in subsidies, which is virtually nothing. It also neglects to mention the extra taxes levied out of the nuclear industry, which amounts to nearly the $30 billion they gain, which were supposed to be used for waste disposal, but which were misused and squandered by the government.

Jan 19, 2018
"with unsubsidized cost coming in below all contenders"


Hardly. Solar power is only competetive in Saudi Arabia, and that too is largely due to builders making suicide bids to push each other out of the market.

But if you want to ignore the local realities of renewables, then apply the same criteria to the competition: natural gas derived electricity is now at $23/MWh in places, more typically around $40/MWh. None of the renewables can beat that without subsidies.

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