South Australia to build world’s largest virtual power plant

The South Australian Government has unveiled plans to roll out a network of 50,000 home solar and battery systems in what will be the world’s largest virtual power plant.

Beginning with a trial of 1100 Housing SA properties, a 5kW solar panel system and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed at no charge to the household and financed through the sale of electricity.

Following the trial, which has already commenced, systems will be installed at a further 24,000 Housing Trust properties, and then a similar deal offered to all South Australian households, with a plan for at least 50,000 households to participate over the next four years.

SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the project would lower power bills by 30 per cent for those participating in the trial.

“What this project will do is connect thousands of solar and battery systems to make one giant, coordinated virtual power plant,” he said.

“With the Tesla battery at Jamestown in place, the Port Augusta solar thermal plant under development and now the world’s largest virtual power plant announced, South Australia is leading the way in the storage of renewable energy.”

Premier Jay Weatherill said more renewable energy means cheaper power for the state.

“My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, and now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefitting with significant savings in their energy bills.

“Our energy plan means that we are leading the world in renewable energy and now we are making it easier for more homes to become self-sufficient.”

A registration of interest will be opened from today for members of the public who wish to participate in the program.

The state government will release a market notice later this week for a retailer to deliver the program, with a preference of bringing a new player into the market.

The project is expected to create 500 renewable energy jobs in the state.

Climate Council acting CEO and head of research Dr Martin Rice said the initiative was a “game changer”.

“This announcement shows the transition to a twenty-first century grid, made up of clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and battery storage is inevitable and it’s happening now,” he said.

Dr Rice said South Australia is home to the highest proportion of solar and wind electricity in Australia, which is also among the highest in the world.

“South Australia is leading the charge, from the most powerful battery, wind and solar plants, to upcoming solar thermal and now the world’s largest virtual power plant,” he said.

“The state is doing its bit to slash pollution levels and to tackle climate change, now we just need the Federal Government to do the same for the nation.”