Tesla: the possibilities of a virtual power plant

By William Girling

AEMO has issued a new report examining a southern Australia virtual power plant (VPP) it has been developing with tech innovator Tesla.

Envisioned as a project that will prove the real-world viability of augmenting current energy infrastructure with new technology, Tesla’s contribution involves the supply of solar PVs (photovoltaic panels) and battery storage units.

With the batteries storing solar-generated energy, they form a connected network which can supplement grids to keep utility costs lower for consumers, as well as helping to maintain regular service when there are unexpected grid outages. 

One example given in the report of the VPP in action is an incident at Kogan Creek, Queensland during October 2019. On this occasion, approximately 748 MW of power unexpectedly dropped out and the grid’s operational frequency reduced to 49.61 Hz.

However, the VPP was able to rectify this anomaly by immediately injecting stored power into the grid to aid recovery. This and other incidents like it appear to confirm AEMO’s and Tesla’s assessments of the VPP as a proven asset to the Australian energy sector. 

Helping to answer important questions

Commenting in a press release, Lynne Gallagher, interim CEO of Energy Consumers Australia, highlighted the long-term positive impact that the VPP trial might have not just on energy but also future lifestyles.


“The VPP Trial is important because it will not only help us answer technical questions about this exciting new technology, but how to make it work for people and how they use energy in their homes and businesses.

“Energy is deeply embedded in the way we live our lives, and bringing consumers into the innovation process is a critical part of developing successful new energy services,” she said.

The scale of the project’s overall success might be indicated by its encouraging ability in the Kogan Creek incident despite being only 2% complete (the VPP’s current phase involves scaling to 1,100 equipped homes, but its completed figure will be closer to 50,000).

“Scalability of VPPs is vital,” notes Tesla in its feedback included in the AEMO report.

“Tesla’s experience over the first six months of the VPP is that there are areas for improvement to streamline the registration process and encourage greater coordination of DER (distributed energy resource) assets.”

Improved performance will be welcomed and encouraged by AEMO, which has implemented an Integrated System Plan to retire 63% of the nation’s coal-based power plants by 2040 and to provide 22% of Australia’s energy requirements from solar alone. 

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