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Power Businesses Technology

Tesla Unveils New Large Powerpack Project For Grid Balancing In Europe (electrek.co) 99

Tesla has unveiled a new large Powerpack energy storage project to be used as a virtual power plant for grid balancing in Europe. It consists of 140 Powerpacks and several Tesla inverters for a total power output of 18.2 MW. Electrek reports: Tesla partnered with Restore, a demand response aggregator, to build the system and offer balancing services to European transmission system operators. Instead of using gas generators and steam turbines kicking to compensate for losses of power on the grid, Tesla's batteries are charged when there's excess power and then discharge when there's a need for more power.

Restore UK Vice President Louis Burford told The Energyst that they are bundling their assets like batteries as a "synthetic pool": "By creating synthetic pools or portfolios, you reduce the technical requirements on individual assets that otherwise would not be able to participate [in certain balancing services]. By doing so you create value where it does not ordinarily exist. That is only achievable through synthetic portfolios."
For those interested, Tesla has released promo video on YouTube about the project.

Tesla Unveils New Large Powerpack Project For Grid Balancing In Europe

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  • I'd couple them with some big batteries. Maybe Tesla's, or maybe someone else's. Tesla isn't the only battery maker. Then I could jump in instantly when the demand rises while my turbines spool up. And leave my turbines running after demand tapers off to recharge.

    Why leave money on the table for someone else to grab with a battery only solution?

    • Sounds good in theory. Batteries aren't cheap, and these don't have huge capacity. The big deal is that they can instantly meet the drops or absorb the peaks. But guess what, they grid does this pretty good on its own already. All this does is reduce the need for idling "spinning reserve".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @12:35AM (#56618768)

        If the grid did this well already, then Tesla's batteries wouldn't be having such a massive impact [electrek.co] on the cost of balancing.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          If the grid did this well already, then Tesla's batteries wouldn't be having such a massive impact [electrek.co] on the cost of balancing.

          They only have a 'massive impact' for short durations in very specific situations. South Australia case is unique and you'd have a hard time finding many similar ones in Europe.

      • I think saying this isn't important b/c the grid already balances "on its own" is kind of like saying Y2K preparations were a waste of money because nothing really happened. There's a lot of capital and effort that goes into keeping the grid balanced. It's not some kind of Weeble that will take care of itself if we just ignore it.
    • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @10:55PM (#56618522)

      A couple problems with that. The battery defeats the value of the gas turbine in providing "fast" response regulation up or down-- the turbine is no longer the go-to fast response source. Secondly, storage is generally most valuable close to demand, and not close to generation.

      Where batteries will help is plants that cannot be competitively spun up and down fast enough for grid "fast" response-- they can use the battery to achieve a better ramp rate. Unfortunately, prices need to drop nearly an order of magnitude for the value to stack there.

      • Data published in news articles within the last week or two indicated that Tesla's battery/inverter setups were very cost effective in saving large amounts of money in Australia recently.

        I can't speak from personal analysis of the savings quoted in the articles, but the numbers cited in the publicly released articles seemed to pass the smell test.

      • by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @01:32AM (#56618880)

        In terms of responsiveness, coal and oil plants are like 7200 rpm 3Gbps SATA HDDs, Nuke plants are like 5400 rpm IDE HDDs in RAID 0. Gas plants are like SSDs. Batteries are like L3 cache. Solar and wind are network connections, the former giving a relatively fixed amount of data over the day which changes by the hour, and the latter shoving random amounts of data down the pipe.

        • Solar and wind are network connections, the former giving a relatively fixed amount of data over the day which changes by the hour, and the latter shoving random amounts of data down the pipe.

          So shared connection over TV-cable network vs. 3G connection in an area with bad coverage, resp. ?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Nuclear reactors have really slow startup and shutdown times if they want to operate economically.

          You can shut them down in about a week if there's a business case for doing so, and in doing so you'll waste fuel and labour. You can shut them down in hours if there's an emergency, but that's a destructive and wasteful process that will leave you shut down for months while you reset everything. If you want to run them at anything even approaching economically competetive, you schedule the startups and shutdow

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Its true that nuclear reactors have slow start up and ramping times. But most people don't realize that large generators like nuclear and coal plants provide very short duration frequency and voltage support. They don't need to ramp way up and down, they are large and only need to slightly adjust their output. A nuclear plant is many thousands of Powerwall batteries. Only a 0.01 percent shift in output has a big impact compared to a battery. Nuclear (and coal) plants have voltage regulators that are constan

        • Modded -1: Not a car analogy

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @04:02AM (#56619158)

        Secondly, storage is generally most valuable close to demand, and not close to generation.

        That depends on the purpose of the storage. Storage designated for grid stability (e.g. batteries rapidly compensating a shift in frequency while peakers come online) is most valuable close to the generation. The lights stay on if the generators don't trip on load/frequency deviations.

        Storage for the purpose of dispensing energy continuously at regular intervals (e.g. batteries compensating for the peak demand after sunset) however is most valuable close to demand as there are less system losses.

        • The lights stay on if the generators don't trip on load/frequency deviations.
          Storage for the purpose of dispensing energy continuously at regular intervals (e.g. batteries compensating for the peak demand after sunset) however is most valuable close to demand as there are less system losses.

          Wouldn't it still make more sense to locate the storage near the point of demand? Providing it there still keeps the load off of the system that would otherwise cause the generators to disconnect.

          • No. The same impacts that cause system losses in grids also cause time delays and affect transients that occur on the grid. For providing energy supply, low loss is king. For stability ... errr stability.... is king.

          • The lights stay on if the generators don't trip on load/frequency deviations. Storage for the purpose of dispensing energy continuously at regular intervals (e.g. batteries compensating for the peak demand after sunset) however is most valuable close to demand as there are less system losses.

            Wouldn't it still make more sense to locate the storage near the point of demand? Providing it there still keeps the load off of the system that would otherwise cause the generators to disconnect.

            In theory, sure, but also keep in mind that you would then have to deal with maintenance at hundreds or thousands of local sites instead of a single large power plant.

        • There are other variables— primarily in transmission lines, that constrain optimal placement. The only time they are really valuable at the source is with wind, and that is actually the transmission coupling point. Upstream, you hope the number of turbines provides limited smoothing.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Storage designated for grid stability (e.g. batteries rapidly compensating a shift in frequency while peakers come online) is most valuable close to the generation.

          Not true. Storage for grid stability is most valuable in the portion of the grid that is susceptible to instability. South Australia is a great example. They have instability due to the great distance of much of the generation supply over a inadequate transmission infrastructure.

          • Storage for grid stability is most valuable in the portion of the grid that is susceptible to instability.

            Like the generators? I mean it's not like my toaster cares if the freqency isn't right.

            They have instability due to the great distance of much of the generation supply over a inadequate transmission infrastructure.

            The goal is keeping the lights on so to do that you stabilise the source of generation. The closer you locate batteries to the generating equipment the more likely it is to ride through a grid upset, the more stable the grid during a major disconnection event (both remote protecting the local generator and local reducing the effects of disconnecting the local generator on the rest of the grid). There's a reason the Hornsd

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The value question is the hardest one to talk about in general terms. That is because not all battery use cases will be the same. For now, most are for fast response for frequency stabilization and then some momentary voltage support (ancillary services). The use case of storage for wind intermittence offset is a very different one.

        In any of those cases, the 'cost' and 'value' of the battery depend on the amount it will be used. If you install a battery an rarely use it, it become relatively expensive per k

        • At the load, a battery can serve as an internal cost offset, or an external cost offset-- providing a backup power function may have a "value" comparable to the cost of the unit and capacity is not required for rate arbitrage. Or, the internal offset in rate arbitrage might be more compelling. Or... the power quality opportunities could dominate. External offsets are revenue opportunities, which may or may not be part of the math.

          At the source, the only "internal" benefits would be in meeting whatever con

      • by Anonymous Coward

        A couple problems with that. The battery defeats the value of the gas turbine in providing "fast" response regulation up or down-- the turbine is no longer the go-to fast response source. Secondly, storage is generally most valuable close to demand, and not close to generation.

        Where batteries will help is plants that cannot be competitively spun up and down fast enough for grid "fast" response-- they can use the battery to achieve a better ramp rate. Unfortunately, prices need to drop nearly an order of magnitude for the value to stack there.

        There certainly is interest in batteries by utilities and grid operators because of fast response characteristics. But lets not forget that we can operate large grid very reliably without them. The places they are needed aren't that widespread for most well established grids. There is however increasing stresses on grids as intermittent renewables are added. The systemic costs of adding them past a certain point may include expensive battery storage but more importantly transmission infrastructure changes.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @11:01PM (#56618540) Homepage

      The most logical solution is to fit out the existing power plant and interconnections. Solar panel every roof in the suburbs and double battery pack them and you are mostly done, by far the most competitive solution, especially financially speaking. This because the fit out can be financed in depth, for example some people who can afford it, can directly invest in it, by fitting out their own property to produce more electricity than they need, store the excess during the day and sell it at night. Others of course could lease to buy, still getting their electricity and selling the excess to help with the lease. The cheapest option, the home owner does nothing and simply allows it to be installed for a discount on their electrical price with an option to buy out the equipment in the future. For property investors, they can really effectively invest in their property by fitting it out, and selling electricity to their tenant at the market rate, whilst selling the excess back to the grid, a lot more people could become power plant operators.

      This only really works in some countries (AU and US lots and lots and lots of burbs) and for the EU only some cities, most are built up with close in rural, not much suburbia. So on the whole a larger installation makes sense but in the smaller cities with a higher proportion of suburbia, that distributed power generation and storage makes much more sense.

      Still the first company to jump and offer it, will win a decided lead in market share ie owning the solar system and batteries on other peoples properties and basically providing market access with collective bargaining. They can hit the market for a better price for their clients, a much better price and keep a percentage as ongoing sales, whilst of course generating much zero tax income. Zero tax because profits from sales of equipment would be covered by tax deduction by direct investment in equipment, poorer suburbs investment covering profits from middle class suburbs.

      The power companies will be slow threatens existing power plant investments. Manufacturers of course not so much, it really suits them, hell, even a corporation like Amazon could jump into distributed power generation and storage, using their global buying power to generate that investment opportunity. This is a real snooze and you lose investment, those who get in first, will basically lock up the markets (specific cities, the best ones) they gain a market share lead in.

      Coal is fucked.

      • As nice as that would be, you underestimate the amount of energy we use, especially for industrial uses. It would take almost 600 of these entire power plants to run my city FOR JUST AN HOUR in the summer or winter. The larger one in Australia would almost get us an entire minute of power.

        Cost and abundance are valid components of this equation for business and homes alike, and aren't going away. Coal, in providing a much larger and cheaper amount of power might not go anywhere soon. Some businesses
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The first thing to do is insulate houses,

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        The most logical solution is to fit out the existing power plant and interconnections. Solar panel every roof in the suburbs and double battery pack them and you are mostly done, by far the most competitive solution, especially financially speaking. This because the fit out can be financed in depth, for example some people who can afford it, can directly invest in it, by fitting out their own property to produce more electricity than they need, store the excess during the day and sell it at night. Others of course could lease to buy, still getting their electricity and selling the excess to help with the lease. The cheapest option, the home owner does nothing and simply allows it to be installed for a discount on their electrical price with an option to buy out the equipment in the future. For property investors, they can really effectively invest in their property by fitting it out, and selling electricity to their tenant at the market rate, whilst selling the excess back to the grid, a lot more people could become power plant operators.

        This only really works in some countries (AU and US lots and lots and lots of burbs) and for the EU only some cities, most are built up with close in rural, not much suburbia. So on the whole a larger installation makes sense but in the smaller cities with a higher proportion of suburbia, that distributed power generation and storage makes much more sense.

        Still the first company to jump and offer it, will win a decided lead in market share ie owning the solar system and batteries on other peoples properties and basically providing market access with collective bargaining. They can hit the market for a better price for their clients, a much better price and keep a percentage as ongoing sales, whilst of course generating much zero tax income. Zero tax because profits from sales of equipment would be covered by tax deduction by direct investment in equipment, poorer suburbs investment covering profits from middle class suburbs.

        The power companies will be slow threatens existing power plant investments. Manufacturers of course not so much, it really suits them, hell, even a corporation like Amazon could jump into distributed power generation and storage, using their global buying power to generate that investment opportunity. This is a real snooze and you lose investment, those who get in first, will basically lock up the markets (specific cities, the best ones) they gain a market share lead in.

        Coal is fucked.

        It baffles me that people still think distributed generation is a good idea. Putting up solar panels on individual residential properties, with a grid-tie inverter at each one, in a city, is expensive and inefficient. It simply can not compare to building a large array on flat land in a rural area and minimizing the ancillary equipment by optimizing the number of inverters and busbars.

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          Yeah, it seems to me (based on talking to friends in the industry) that the make or break financially comes down to how cheaply you can mount the panels. It's way easier to mount a bunch of panels in a field on the outskirts than on a bunch of different shaped roofs.

        • Sure. But that's if you only compare direct energy generation prices, and ignore everything else.

          Would it be cheaper per watt if my parent's little town made a field of solar panels than them putting them on their house? Absolutely. Will there be revenue sharing with my parents if the town does that once the panels are paid off? Not likely. Maybe taxes will stay flat for a few years. And that's if you can get half the town to vote for the project, and willing to let it be town owned and run rather than priv

    • Maybe Tesla's, or maybe someone else's. Tesla isn't the only battery maker

      True, but Tesla are the biggest, thus you would expect them to be able to supply more easily and more cheaply.

      Why leave money on the table for someone else to grab with a battery only solution?

      Also true, but Tesla is selling a complete end to end to solution of out box now. Any other option, while it may be better and cheaper, probably requires someone to design, build, test, project manage multiple suppliers etc which means risk and delays. A bird in the hand etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The company refers to its model as a ‘synthetic pool’. Burford said synthetic portfolios can unlock greater value from batteries by enabling other types of assets or load to deliver flexibility into fast response markets that they could not technically deliver by themselves."

      Yeah, they're a step ahead of you. That's what they're doing - having fast response from batteries

    • Nevah been done befoh. http://www.powermag.com/two-sc... [powermag.com]
  • Real goal of Tesla? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icejai ( 214906 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @11:14PM (#56618568)

    I have a hunch this is Tesla's true end game. I don't think Musk honestly believes he'll reach $650B market cap in 10 years by selling cars. I think he believes he'll reach $650B market cap by selling these. By turning his gigafactory into a "product" that can be mass-produced, he'll be able to scale up and deploy at a rate and cost that nobody else can match.

    Leaving the gigafactory off as collateral in Tesla's last bond issue is pretty interesting as well.

    Maybe making electric cars, and giving away patents, was the excuse he created in order to justify the creation of the gigafactory in the first place? It's like giving away lanterns to sell kerosene.

    If this is the case, Tesla intends to be this century's Standard Oil -- a company that makes stored energy more accessible.

    Hey may never have intended automobile production to be profitable. Maybe he just wants the world to demand his batteries.

    • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @11:37PM (#56618636)

      "I have a hunch this is Tesla's true end game"

      Tesla CTO JB Straubel in 2014 - "“We are an energy innovation company as much as a car company.....“Tesla wasn’t founded to make cars. We have enough cars. We have *too many* cars. Tesla was founded to change the game in energy.....I really love batteries, I might love batteries more than cars"

      https://electrek.co/2014/05/24... [electrek.co]

      • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @04:06AM (#56619162)

        I can't find the quote anymore but back in the 00s in Tesla's early life I remember a quite from Musk saying the ultimate goal of Telsa was to be driven out of business by major car manufacturer's extensive line of electric cars. Musk got into this game to change the world run by stubborn dirty companies, and he's on the way to doing just that.

    • I have a hunch this is Tesla's true end game. I don't think Musk honestly believes he'll reach $650B market cap in 10 years by selling cars. I think he believes he'll reach $650B market cap by selling these.

      One rule I live by is that smart people have thought of what you have thought of plus some. And since Elon Musk is clearly a smart guy, I would guess cars only form a small part of the strategy.

    • I have a hunch this is Tesla's true end game. I don't think Musk honestly believes he'll reach $650B market cap in 10 years by selling cars. I think he believes he'll reach $650B market cap by selling these. By turning his gigafactory into a "product" that can be mass-produced, he'll be able to scale up and deploy at a rate and cost that nobody else can match

      It should be more than a hunch. Tesla is really a battery/power company and should be regarded as such. Yes they are trying to sell cars because they need to develop the market for their real products. Same thing with their roof and battery pack products. They have the unenviable task of trying to both build a market and build a company. I think their purchase of SolarCity is more than a financing play. I think it really speaks to their real goals which are more about electric power technology rather

    • by yaznaz ( 4678625 )
      Tesla does not have any technological advantage in this field. Unlike a car battery, grid storage does not need to be compact or lightweight. Traditional companies such as Siemens have considerable breadth of expertise with large scale implementations that only show up in industry publications: https://www.energystoragenetwo... [energystor...tworks.com]
  • The European grid companies have no reason to give this out of hands. They can buy their batteries and inverters elsewhere.
    And grid storage is discussed since before the start of mass funding of renewable energy about 20 years ago. It wasn't worthwhile yet to build plants just for that, neither hydro (which was cheaper in the past at least) nor batteries. If Tesla found a way to make it work they will probably happily implement it themselves.
    • Tesla’s advantage is they mass produce the batteries as well as the power electronics. That is also potentially a disadvantage, as chemistry-agnostic integrators can potentially select one chemistry for fast-response and another for bulk capacity to reduce costs.

      Tesla seems to have the biggest installations and the largest industrial footprint though.

      • Really? I read about lithium producers saying that Tesla is not the biggest consumer in the market, they just bark the loudest
  • This [wikipedia.org] is a grid balancer.(it works better if said with Paul Hogan's accent).
    This dam plant by itself is about 1TW, and there are many plants like this scattered around Europe since many years. They work by pumping water upside when there is too much electricity production, and reversing the cycle when needed. Elon Musk has nothing to teach here.
    • It is of course 1GW, not 1TW...sorry for the typo
    • by Monoman ( 8745 )

      Basically, yes they seem the same. How do these https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] compare to Tesla's solution in regards to efficiency, response time, environmental impact, etc?

    • Elon Musk has nothing to teach here.

      A battery responds faster (sub-second response times), takes up less space, and potentially has less environmental impact depending on electrolyte chemistry. Sounds like you could learn something.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        Not sure how big a battery with a 1728MW power output and a capacity of 9.1GWh (33 TJ) is, but I suspect at least as large as Dinorwig is. The environmental impact of which is basically limited to arctic char going extinct in the feed lake. Though that might well be in part due to the fact they where mostly moved to other suitable lakes before it when live.

        However Dinorwig takes 16 seconds to go from nothing to full power and that requires the turbines are being spun in air prior to opening the valves. Ot

        • by dj245 ( 732906 )
          There is little or no reason to have sub-second response time on a grid. Maintaining exactly 60hz is not necessary, current grids do "well enough", and anyone with a use case for exactly 60hz power (I can't think of any) already has their own equipment to make that happen.

          I suspect that the main reason why some people are drooling over this is because it allows high-frequency trading on the energy market. The profit potential is very good, at the expense of all of the ratepayers, for something that isn'
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "By creating synthetic pools or portfolios, you reduce the technical requirements on individual assets ...."

    Sounds good

    synthetic liquid credit default swaps

    what could go wrong

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm still puzzled about the hype here. This is nothing new, compare for example: https://www.younicos.com/case-studies/schwerin/

    • Grid connected batteries have been around for a long time, but the current systems are more appropriate for addressing the “duck curve” caused by large solar contributions to the grid. It also can localize the solution to that problem and eliminate it as a grid issue.

      The grid’s big hope at this point is in EVs.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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