Watch To Find Out Why Tesla’s Massive Powerpack Systems Really Matter

AUG 20 2018 BY MARK KANE 9

Battery energy storage systems have a serious role to play

Energy storage is a very important part of maintaining the electric grid as it removes a lot of burden from power plants when power demand (and local renewable generation) fluctuates wildly.

To keep the production and demand in balance, which results in nearly perfect frequency of 60 Hz (50 Hz in Europe), energy storage eliminates fluctuations. The big daily or weekly changes usually rode on the shoulders of pumped-storage hydroelectricity. There are also other types like flywheel storage (kinetic energy).

The biggest new thing in the ESS are lithium-ion batteries, not because batteries weren’t used before (on a limited scale), but because prices and durability of li-ion have become attractive – more so than other solutions now.

A base overview of energy storage systems was recently released by Verge Science, who talked with Tesla CTO JB Straubel.

Tesla is one of the leaders of battery energy storage on both ends of the scale – home energy storage (Powerwalls) and utility energy storage (Powerpacks).

Why Tesla is building city-sized batteries

We talked to the co-founder of Tesla, JB Straubel, about why giant batteries are crucial to the future of power grids everywhere. Batteries are becoming more useful at powering bigger things like bikes, cars, and soon, entire cities. We explore some of the zanier forms of energy storage already in use around the country.

Categories: ESS, Tesla

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9 Comments on "Watch To Find Out Why Tesla’s Massive Powerpack Systems Really Matter"

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A good friend of mine works at one of the hydro operators in Quebec. He said they cannot make money under steady state load as the market price per KWh is too low.
They make all of their money selling power to other operators when they have generation issues or when their engineered capacity is below current demand.
Large ESSs would throw a majority wrench into their operating model – will be interesting to see if they can keep them out or how the market changes as they are introduced.

The advantage with hydro, is they can adjust production very quickly, and set the computer for a minimum production price, and just limit or stop production when prices are below a minimum price. As long as they have a storage volume that is large enough. They don’t have a “boiler” they need to keep hot, and that takes time to adjust capacity.

In periods with heavy rain, nobody competes with hydro on price, and in areas with coal/oil/gas power plants, they will shut down and do maintenance in these periods.
Since the price is low in these situations, many hydro power plants pump water back, when the price is at it’s lowest, and then go for maximum production at peak hours, when the price is higher.

The cost of hydro is low, in the long run. The turbines last a long time (decades), with minor maintenance.

ESS with battery is on the scale of hours, not days or weeks. But for those operating parameter, it is cheaper and more reliable.

ESS with other peaker plants such as pumped hydro or NG plants can be operated for days and weeks. Of course, those plants are more expensive to build upfront and cost more to maintain.

that is ultimately the difference and concerns here.

Not even hours. The capacity needed for that globally would be enormous. Great for some short term balancing, but people need to stop using (lithium-ion) batteries and storage in the same sentence, even if it technically is a short term storage.

Depends on the use case. The island of Ta’u uses them effectively:

60 Tesla Powerpacks were deployed to the island allowing 6 megawatt-hours of energy to be stored, enough for about 3 days of backup energy.

Yeah, but they have a population of like 800 people. Most other markets use the battery systems for load balancing (for which they are very good), and they will for sure have a lot of customers in the future – as load balancing needs are growing.

In my personal use-case I’m very close to the point whereby a home-battery + solar is a cheaper solution than grid-power. Charge during the day, use at night. “Short-term storage” will still cover most* of my electricity usage.

This will apply to more/most people as prices come down further.

* prolonged periods of clouded days, etc. excluded

For people going off grid, a good home battery + solar and maybe wind (in some cases) will be a good economical solution, if they play to live in the house for a long time.

Too bad they didn’t get the Utility’s point of view – after all – they’re the ones who ultimately will be placing the orders for the equipment. There was some discussion about base load plants – but this is especially important with Nuclear Plants as it is somewhat dangerous to change the loading of them quickly (Xenon Poisoning, etc.) – and also from the fact that as the charge in the core becomes more depleted, the reactor becomes more unstable at changing power levels. Lately, the Nuclear Industry has GREATLY improved its performance. Whereas in the 1970’s only 1.5% of reactors weren’t SCRAM’d in the previous 12 months, today 33% of US reactors haven’t been SCRAM’d in the same amount of time – a somewhat violent procedure which taxes much of the equipment and therefore will last much longer the fewer SCRAMS it has to endure. (SCRAM means Safety Control Rod Axe Man). Today’s US Nukes have a 90% uptime compared with only 67% in the 80’s; an undeniable improvement. I mention this since this keeps the cost of Nuclear much lower lately than it has historically been, which is always a good thing. But Nuclear plants therefore for the… Read more »