Bet-winning battery responds in record time

Tesla’s South Australia Powerpack facility, powered by clean energy from Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, is currently the largest lithium-ion battery of its kind on the planet.
Image credit:Tesla

Within two weeks of going live in December last year, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, built in South Australia by Tesla, was put to the test when the coal-power units at one of Australia’s power stations tripped up. The bet-winning battery stepped in – in record time – following the sudden and massive power drop.

At 01:59 on 14 December, Loy Yang A 3, one of the biggest coal units in Australia, situated in the neighbouring state of Victoria, tripped without warning resulting in a sudden loss of 560MW of power and causing a slump in frequency on the network.

The 100MW/129MWh battery, located about 1 000km from the coal plant, responded in milliseconds, before the unit had even finished tripping, it injected 7.3MW into the grid to jumpstart its recovery.

The response was actually so fast that the Australian energy market regulator AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) was unable to time it. AEMO data shows Tesla’s big battery responded four seconds ahead of the Gladstone coal generator in Queensland, which was contracted to provide frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS).

Just over a week later, on 22 December, a different unit at Loy Yang tripped, causing a 353MW drop in capacity. The Tesla battery came to the rescue for a second time, responding in just 0.14 seconds, this time injecting 16MW to keep the grid under control.

The battery, which is fed by turbines at the Hornsdale wind farm, can power up to 30 000 homes, although only for short periods – 70MW of the 100MW/129MWh system can only last 10 minutes, with the remaining 30MW able to provide three hours of power. This means that the battery farm is a great backup but, for now at least, fossil fuel-powered plants are still needed to bail it out.

Batteries provide a way to store the otherwise intermittent energy produced via wind and solar farms.
Image credit: Pixabay

While these two outages showcased the battery’s ability to provide contingency services to help keep the grid stable in a crisis, the project also proves that batteries can be used to address one of the biggest problems facing renewable energy: the intermittent nature of solar and wind power. However, the inherent instability of batteries connected to such power sources means that, for now at least, energy can only be stored for a few weeks before the batteries start to lose their charge.

Following the success of Tesla’s South Australia facility, the neighbouring state of Victoria has decided to pursue a contract with Tesla to install its very own, much smaller, Powerpack system. This 20MW battery system will be designed to support the yet-to-be-built Bulgana Green Power Hub, a 204MW wind farm in Western Victoria and will be online in mid-2019.

South Australia Powerpack Project Celebration

The South Australian Powerpack Project.
Video credit: Tesla


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By Robyn Grimsley
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