(Please see our updated story: Musk gets connection deal for big battery, then switches it on):
Tesla’s big battery is certain to be delivered by December 1, as scheduled, and may even come on line a little earlier, but households wanting their own Tesla Powerwall to store their excess rooftop solar are having to join a waiting list growing up to six months in some areas.
Tesla is due to make a major “milestone” announcement on the Tesla big battery adjacent to the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia’s mid north on Friday evening – expected to be delivered by CEO and founder Elon Musk, who is in Adelaide to explain his vision for life on Mars (sending cargo rockets in 2022), and his vision for life on the Moon and to use the rockets to link the world’s major cities within 30 minutes of flight.
The company is keeping mum on the big battery details, apart from describing it variously as a “milestone event” and a “PowerPack celebration” – but it promises to be big, and around 400 people are expected at the event.
It could be confirmation of the connection agreement that triggers the “100-day” countdown – which would set new standards for the opening of an envelope – or it could even be a demonstration of the 100kWh Powerpack batteries already assembled near the Hornsdale sub-station.
The 100-day countdown, in which Musk promised to install the 100MW/129MWh array “or it’s free”, is more of a marketing ploy in any case.
That is because the contract with the South Australia government requires it to be in place by December 1, 63 days away, and the Australian Energy Market Operator is counting on it as part of a suite of measure to prevent any further blackouts.
RenewEconomy has been seeking confirmation from Tesla, wind farm owner Neoen, AEMO, ElectraNet and the South Australian government on progress. All have said it is going along “as scheduled”, but offered little other information ahead of the event.
The Tesla big battery will perform two primary functions: One is to provide “network” services to the grid – super fast response in case of an emergency – while the rest will be used by Hornsdale operator Neoen to “time shift” wind output or store excess production. See here for a full explanation of what it can and can’t do.
But while the Powerpack installation is expected to meet deadlines, solar and battery storage installers are growing frustrated about the growing wait time for deliveries of the popular 14kWh PowerWall 2 batteries designed for individual households and some commercial use.
Demand is running hot, but as several installers told RenewEconomy on Thursday, customers now have to wait until February or March to get their equipment.
Nigel Morris, from energy monitoring SolarAnalytics, said on the latest Solar Insiders podcast that the delay in deliveries could have an impact on battery storage insalltaion numbers for 2017. Some suggest it could be 2,000 deliveries by the end of the year, but the waiting time could hit that.
Morris said installers were getting lifted supplies, even if their order books were much larger. (You can listen to the Solar Insiders podcast, which also discusses other battery brand names, here).
The exact reason for supply not meeting demand is not known – whether the shortfall comes from a bottleneck in production, in shipping to Australia, or is due to diversions to hurricane-affected areas in the US and the Caribbean, or because of the resources devoted to the big battery installation in Hornsdale.
Tesla has just installed an extension of its super-charging network to ensure that Tesla electric vehicle users can reach the Hornsdale site, and see the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery in operation.
And despite the delays elsewhere, positive stories continue to emerge. And like the deliveries to hurricane-affected Puerto Rico, it’s about being able to save on expensive grid upgrades, or in the tragic case of Puerto Rico, the lack of an existing grid.
In Queensland, a council says it is saving $1.9 million in grid costs by installing a single 100kWh Powerpack at a water disinfection system in a relatively unique off-grid situation.
Sophie Vorrath also reports that a Domino’s Pizza outlet is beating a costly network upgrade by installing 10 of the PowerWall units in what is being described as the “world’s biggest commercial” installation of Powerwall units. Is this the new normal for small businesses?
Meanwhile, the battery storage industry eagerly awaits the outcomes of other key tenders. In Victoria, the result of a tender for two 20MW batteries totalling 100MWh of storage is yet to be announced (it was due at the end of August).
The industry is also awaiting the result of tenders and expressions of interest that have also closed for South Australia’s renewable energy innovation fund, which will include storage, and Queensland’s RE400 tender, seeking at least 400MW of large scale renewables with 100MW of storage included.
(RenewEconomy has provided an update following the Tesla event).
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.