Instyle Solar Tesla Powerpack 2 Review

It’s exciting times for renewable energy and the future has never looked so bright. Even though the concept of renewable energy isn’t new and many of the technologies have existed for a good few decades, it’s only in the past decade that the technology has gone mainstream.

The main reason behind this has been a push by governments for the private sector to invest in clean energy due to climate change concerns. Government incentives and subsidies have brought down the cost of renewables to a point where they are able to compete with coal-fired power stations. Something unheard of until fairly recently!

Increasingly we are seeing solar panels everywhere from ground-mounted systems to residential, commercial and large-scale utility systems.

Renewable naysayers, and you will always find naysayers in any industry, claim that renewable energy is not able to provide consistent power such as baseload power stations. An example of this would be nuclear or coal. They still produce power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

This is why the focus has shifted to energy storage technology in recent years. Massive amounts of R&D investments are going into energy storage technology. The idea is to improve the technology, provide faster charging, denser energy storage capacity and bring costs down.

The Tesla Powerwall battery is one example, based on Lithium-ion technology and aimed at the residential sector. Already in its 2nd generation released in 2016,h the 3rd generation is on its way. The residential market has taken to the Tesla Powerwall like a duck to water. Yet the commercial sector is likely to benefit from energy storage the most.

Tesla has recently developed the Tesla Powerpack which is now in its 2nd generation too. The Tesla Powerpack is really geared towards serving the interests of commercial enterprises and utilities. Let’s take a closer look at it.

What’s Inside The Tesla Powerpack

Tesla Powerpack is a high-performance battery system with a flexible, infinitely scalable modular layout.

The second generation of Tesla Powerpack holds some “nifty and sexy” specs - if you are into energy storage systems, that is! Most of the innovations were borrowed from Tesla Model S car experience.

For example, an internal liquid cooling and heating system that allows for pinpoint temperature control within a Powerpack. A dual coolant and refrigerant loop system, adapted from Model S, ensures maximum performance in all climates with better efficiency than air cooling.

Every Powerpack contains 16 individual battery pods, each with an isolated DC-DC converter. Pod architecture and onboard power electronics optimize performance across the array and enable easy swapping at any time.

The second generation technology features a new energy module and power electronics.

This upgrade provides twice the amount of energy density than the previous version. The Powerpack 2 also features a new inverter designed and manufactured at Tesla’s Gigafactory.

The inverter is the lowest cost, highest efficiency and highest power density on the market.

This version of the Powerpack significantly simplifies the complexity of and the amount of time required for installation. This is due to a number of previously independent components now being integrated into the actual inverter.

The system can accommodate between 1 and 20 Tesla Powerpacks per a Tesla inverter. This provides for a scalable and modular system that can be upgraded with ease. The system can be scaled up from 200 kWh up to 100+ MWhs!

This makes the Tesla Powerpack ideal for commercial solar PV systems. A lot of companies consume energy during the evening as well as the daytime. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks with solar PV is that it only produces clean electricity during the day.

Having a larger PV system and Tesla Powerpack system included within the design of the solar PV solution will allow the extra electricity produced during the day to be stored for use at night time. Not only will this increase the level of self-consumption, but if the business is on a TOU tariff it can offset the higher tariff rates at night time. However, this depends on which TOU tariff the facility is on. A feasibility study is recommended to establish the business case behind the investment.

Other advantages include avoiding peak demand charges. An energy storage system will assist in smoothing out those nasty peak demand charges by providing that extra bit of “oomph” as they call it when it’s required. Rather than use the grid, the energy storage system will kick in as a 2nd priority source of electricity after the Solar PV system.

If your business is running critical business operations that can’t afford downtime as in the case of a blackout then have no fear as the Tesla Powerpack can be configured as a microgrid or backup system in case of a power outage.

Tesla Powerpack Technical Specifications

 

AC Voltage

380 to 480V, 3 phases

Communications

Modbus TCP/IP; DNP3

Power

50kW (AC) per Powerpack

Scalable Inverter Power

from 50kVA to 625kVA (at 480V)

Depth of Discharge

100%

Dimensions

Powerpack

Length: 1,308 mm

Width: 822 mm

Height: 2,185 mm

Weight: 1622 kg

Industrial Inverter

Length: 1,014 mm

Width: 1254 mm

Height: 2192 mm

Weight: 1200 kg

Energy Capacity

210 kWh (AC) per Powerpack

Operating Temperature

-30°C to 50°C

Enclosures

Pods: IP67

Powerpack: IP35/NEMA 3R

Inverter: IP66/NEMA 4

System Efficiency (AC) *

88% round-trip (2 hour system)

89% round-trip (4 hour system)

Certifications

Nationally accredited certifications to international safety, EMC, utility and environmental legislation.

* Net Energy delivered at 25°C ambient temperature including thermal control

South Australia’s Giant Lithium-Ion Battery

In what initially appeared to be a PR stunt in true Elon Musk style, Tesla placed a bet they would be able to install the world's largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia in 100 days. The giant 100 MW battery was installed in under 100 days and is now able to supply backup power to 30 000 home’s in South Australia for when the wind doesn’t blow. The region, located 2 hours drive out of Adelaide, relies partly on a wind farm for clean electricity located.

The energy storage solution has gone beyond the call of duty in what it has accomplished so much so that the Australian Energy Market Operator is planning on implementing additional Tesla Powerpack systems at utility scale in the near future.

The system has been in operation for 6 months now and the impact it’s having on the local energy market is massive!

A recent report has shown that the Tesla Powerpack implementation has reduced grid service costs by 90% and already taken a majority share of the market.

So what does this all mean?

When generation capacity is unavailable or maintenance is required on the power grid then the Energy Market Operator calls for Frequency Control and Ancillary Services or FCAS if you are into acronyms. Peaking generation plants have to kick in to compensate for the lost generation capacity. These peaking plants are often expensive to run as most of them rely on natural gas for fuel. Electricity costs are often seen at US$14 000 per a MW during these periods.

The 100 MW / 129 MWh Tesla Powerpack is able to provide the same service at a much lower cost and faster rate than these peaking plants. Whereas traditional peaking plants need to ramp up capacity, the Tesla ESS or Energy Storage System is able to inject that power into the grid much more quickly and with zero carbon emissions.

In the first four months of operation, the cost of the FCAS service fell by 90% and South Australia is the only state that has seen a decline in FCAS costs over the period. Some estimates put the savings at over $30 million in just a few months.

Why has the system been so effective in driving down the costs of peaking power plants? Well, peaking power plants rely on fossil fuels and the cost of generating power is based on the extremely volatile cost of fossil fuel on the open market.

The Tesla Energy Storage System will also provide backup power to the region in case of a catastrophic interconnector grid failure with Victoria.

The Energy Storage System is set to revolutionise the electricity market by increasing competition and improving future energy supply.

Conclusion

The renewable energy industry has been moving at light-speed and many of the challenges faced by renewables won’t even exist in a few years, thanks to technology improvements and the growing viability of energy storage solutions.

The Tesla Powerpack is just one of those energy storage solutions designed for commercial as well as utility applications. The world's largest Lithium-ion battery was recently installed in South Australia as a test case and proved itself to such an extent the solution achieved more than what was originally expected.

The Tesla Powerpack was able to supply power when required and had a huge impact on the stability of the grid and the cost of electricity generated by peaking power plants.

More Tesla Powerpack solutions are in the pipeline for other regions around Australia and will go a long way to providing peace of mind with energy security concerns and impact the cost of electricity positively by improving the competitiveness in the utility industry.

The benefits of the Tesla Powerpack are not only reserved for the utility segment but for business owners who are looking to increase their level of self-consumption, reduce demand costs and take advantage of cheaper electricity through load-shifting practices.

Next Step

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Tesla

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