Image: Tesla

Tesla has partnered with California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company to launch a “Virtual Power Plant” program in the state that allows Powerwall home battery users to send spare energy to California’s power grid in times of need or emergencies. Dubbed the Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP), the program is restricted to PG&E customers but allows those who opt in to get compensated: participants receive $2 for every additional kWh that their Powerwall delivers during an event, according to the landing page for Tesla’s unique program. Users just need to adjust their backup reserve to set their contribution and ensure that enough energy is maintained for outages. Designed to store energy from solar or the grid, Tesla’s Powerwall systems reportedly start at $8,500, not including the usual other costs such as installation and additional required hardware.

Image: Tesla

Stabilize California’s Grid: The extra capacity your Powerwall provides could help avoid or reduce blackouts in a severe emergency. This way, Powerwall can keep the lights on for both you and your community.

Clean the Grid: Tesla will dispatch your Powerwall when the grid is in critical need of additional power. That is when the least efficient generators would typically come online.
Unite as a Tesla Community: Team up with other Powerwall owners who are accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy and help form the largest distributed battery in the world – potentially over 50,000 Powerwalls. As part of the VPP, your Powerwall will have an outsized positive impact on the grid over traditional demand response programs.

Maintain Your Energy Security: Powerwall will discharge during VPP events but won’t discharge below your Backup Reserve. Adjust your Backup Reserve to control your contribution while maintaining backup energy for outages.

Earn Compensation: Through the ELRP pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall provides during an event. You don’t have to change your energy usage behavior to participate.

Source: Tesla

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10 comments

  1. The only thing better than getting paid by having solar on your roof generating extra electricity is getting paid even MORE for having solar in your roof. Hope they bring this out East.
  2. Hope they bring this out East.
    I'm all for the concept, but I wouldn't wish the current state of existence of the CA utilities and grid on another living soul.

    This is nothing but a boondoggle. Tesla gets a ton of revenue / sales / publicity, the utility gets to pass it all back to the ratepayers, with 8% margin on top. The only one losing is the homeowner, who has to pay for it regardless of if they participate or not, and it won't do a darn thing for the grid unless you can get massive (tens of thousands) deployment.
  3. I'm all for the concept, but I wouldn't wish the current state of existence of the CA utilities and grid on another living soul.

    This is nothing but a boondoggle. Tesla gets a ton of revenue / sales / publicity, the utility gets to pass it all back to the ratepayers, with 8% margin on top. The only one losing is the homeowner, who has to pay for it regardless of if they participate or not, and it won't do a darn thing for the grid unless you can get massive (tens of thousands) deployment.
    that's actually somewhat engenious. And if the government wants to pay for me to get free Solar with powerwall technology that will let me run off grid if needed (without grid provided power... you'd be surprised how many systems actually require power from the grid to be present.) then I would love this. That coupled with a nice propane fueled generator would be SWEET.
  4. powerwall technology that will let me run off grid
    They aren't made to run off grid indefinitely. They are made to get you through a short interruption. You get a few hours off grid with a power wall. Without air conditioning, well pumps, or other large loads. And it won't play nice with a backup generator -- it will only charge from solar, and if you turn on your generator the Solar+Power Wall go offline. If there's no sun because of nearby wildfire (smoke) or storms (clouds), then you are up **** creek once the batteries run low. So yeah, it'll work fine for those times where the lights are out for a few hours because a drunk hit a light pole down the road. But when the hurricane comes and blows out your neighborhood, your house will be just as dark as the next guys.

    For 95% of the folks out there - the run of the mill Generac 21kW propane generators will cost 1/2th of what a Power Wall will, will run your A/C and everything else you have, and with a small 100Gal tank run 10 times longer before needing to refuel. You ~could~ run offgrid with one, but they aren't meant for long run times -- they need an oil change about every 100 hrs (that's ... every 4 days if you tried to run completely off grid) -- there's an entirely different class of generators made to run long term, but... you will pay for it. And fuel isn't free either. If you are only running a couple of times a year, the fuel cost is negligible, but if you are really wanting to go entirely off-grid, it's a different kettle of fish.

    There are much better energy storage products out there than Tesla, particularly if you are really talking about running anything off grid for more than a couple of hours at a time. There just isn't a huge market, because the grid is amazingly accessible in the US, and for most people, even as expensive as those power bills can be, it's a really large investment to go off-grid that has a fairly long payback, if any at all in many markets.

    For the "virtual power plant" idea, that's fine. You don't need huge capacity - you just need a lot of units out there. The goal of a utility scale storage project is to provide enough energy to offset needing to start a higher cost, higher polluting asset. At about 13kWh per home, the Power Wall compare that to a utility scale installation is on the order of 10MWh-1,200 MWh. So you need a lot of homes signed up to have a similar impact as a single utility scale energy storage installation -- thousands, if not tens of thousands. If you know anything about the duck curve - that's usually only about the 2-4 hours right as the sun goes down before loads start to naturally diminish on their own. That length of time gets longer as more on demand power sources get knocked off line for opportunistic renewables, but that's what the energy storage is supposed to buffer and mitigate anyway.

    I say this with some knowledge of the industry - I do power plants for large factories for a career. And I'm about 1/3 of the way to having enough solar at my home to just tell my utility company to eat crap. I do have a energy storage system, and it works with a standby generator (a cheapy Harbor Freight Predator, it runs about 10 hrs/year, so I won't feel bad when it craps the bed), and it's all integrated and runs together and I've had to run off grid for upwards of a week during "Wildfire Safety Shutdowns" -- so there are systems that can work, and work well together, just not the Power Wall. If I were willing to cut down a few trees I'd be closer to 1/2 the way, but the shade from the trees saves me more in avoided HVAC than it would generate in increased solar production.
  5. Since power walls are Lithium Ion, if I had one, I'd be concerned that using them for this purpose would contribute to battery wear...
    In the case of a virtual power plant - you wouldn’t necessarily pay for it or own it - you are just allowing them your property to install it and get some of the benefit for doing so.

    Even doing a full cycle a day for this, they should still last 10-15 years
  6. In the case of a virtual power plant - you wouldn’t necessarily pay for it or own it - you are just allowing them your property to install it and get some of the benefit for doing so.

    Even doing a full cycle a day for this, they should still last 10-15 years

    Ahh, I missed that part. I assumed that they would be paying existing power wall owners for the privilege of using their power walls to help the grid.

    If that were the case, and I had one, I would probably be hesitant, but if they are going to pay people to use a small amount of space in their homes for these systems, and give them some of the benefit of it in the process, that seems like a fair exchange.
  7. I assumed that they would be paying existing power wall owners for the privilege of using their power walls to help the grid.
    In this particular case - you are correct. PG&E is allowing existing PowerWall users a chance to enter into the tariff. I am very anti-PG&E, the rates they are offering PowerWall users are attractive, but man, you figure that ratepayers are the ones ultimately paying those rates and it infuriates me and makes me wonder how often they would really exercise it. You could make upwards of $20 on a day your system is called for assuming you let most of your capacity be reserved for use -- but then you have no capacity yourself for time shifting, which can be done every day for about $1-$2/day return; not just days the utility calls for it.

    I've heard of other VPP programs though - one in Vermont I think, a couple of other ones, where the utility provided the energy storage unit, just like they provide a meter. I think it makes more sense in that regard.
  8. In this particular case - you are correct. PG&E is allowing existing PowerWall users a chance to enter into the tariff. I am very anti-PG&E, the rates they are offering PowerWall users are attractive, but man, you figure that ratepayers are the ones ultimately paying those rates and it infuriates me and makes me wonder how often they would really exercise it. You could make upwards of $20 on a day your system is called for assuming you let most of your capacity be reserved for use -- but then you have no capacity yourself for time shifting, which can be done every day for about $1-$2/day return; not just days the utility calls for it.

    I've heard of other VPP programs though - one in Vermont I think, a couple of other ones, where the utility provided the energy storage unit, just like they provide a meter. I think it makes more sense in that regard.

    I'd imagine they would probably use it in cases where those rates actually safe money.

    Utilities often have to do things like emergency buy natural gas on the spot market in order to not have brown-outs, and when they do, they can pay A LOT for it. It winds up being a small portion of power in the grand average of things so it disappears in your bill, but when it happens, per KWH it is pretty expensive.

    If they had another option to turn to, like already stored electricity in peoples homes, to help smooth out the supply, I can see it saving lots of money, despite those rates they are paying out.

    In other words, they likely wouldn't be replacing average supply with these rates, but rather using it during spikes in demand that otherwise would cost them an arm and a leg to fill.
  9. For the "virtual power plant" idea, that's fine. You don't need huge capacity - you just need a lot of units out there. The goal of a utility scale storage project is to provide enough energy to offset needing to start a higher cost, higher polluting asset. At about 13kWh per home, the Power Wall compare that to a utility scale installation is on the order of 10MWh-1,200 MWh. So you need a lot of homes signed up to have a similar impact as a single utility scale energy storage installation -- thousands, if not tens of thousands. If you know anything about the duck curve - that's usually only about the 2-4 hours right as the sun goes down before loads start to naturally diminish on their own. That length of time gets longer as more on demand power sources get knocked off line for opportunistic renewables, but that's what the energy storage is supposed to buffer and mitigate anyway.
    My ideal solution would be to have a 100kwh car (or two) with bi directional charging plugged into the house to give that 13kwh powerwall (or similar storage) dramatically more run time. Let the solar keep everything topped off most of the time, and then when the need is there, the utility can pay me to access my on site 213kwh reserve.

    Of course, I don't have the EVs or the on site storage, but I hope to rectify at least part of that next year when I expand my solar panel footprint.

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