back to article Tesla, Atlassian told to go through front door in effort to save Australian industrial civilisation

Sorry, Elon Musk: if you want to ship 100MW or so of battery so Atlassian's founder Mike Cannon-Brookes can save the Australian State of South Australia, you'll have to go through the boring process of a public tender. The State today announced it will spend AU$150 million on the country's biggest grid-connected battery bank, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they repeat California's failed energy deregulation?

    There are some things that the market just does poorly at. Providing utility service like electricity is one of the them - the profit motive of the companies is opposed to the "we don't want blackouts" motive of the customers.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Did they repeat California's failed energy deregulation?

      While the provision of energy was privatised, energy provision is far from unregulated. Preference is given to "green" energy when it's available. Thus the last few times Pelican Point was fired up, it was shut down again before profit was made. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the profit motive aka known as not wanting to go bankrupt. What's wrong here is the wilfulness of government(s) refusing to accept good advice from them who were willing to do the hard sums. Politicians don't give a flying fuck for the customers.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Did they repeat California's failed energy deregulation?

      "the profit motive of the companies is opposed to the "we don't want blackouts" motive of the customers."

      Which is why you balance the profit motive with "VERY $$$$LARGE FINES" for avoidable blackouts.

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Sorry but how

    are the 100MW battery banks going to be charged if the existing provider can't even generate enough leccy for the houses?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Sorry but how

      A lot of the power in SA is generated by green sources. I.e wind and solar. And they only operate at certain times. When they're not generating, you get nothing. When they are generating, you get more then you need for the network. Batteries allow you to save the excess from when they are generating too much, to use when they are not generating enough.

      I hope that helps your understanding.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but how

        Batteries allow you to save the excess from when they are generating too much, to use when they are not generating enough.
        They also allow you to waste ~20% of that overpriced energy. For a limited time before they're landfill.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Sorry but how

          So you'd rather waste 100% of the excess generated energy then be able to store 80% and use it later during times when it's needed.

          The phrase, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, comes to mind...

          But to be slightly less flippant, if the excess energy is no longer completely wasted, that means the cost per used energy decreases, improving the efficiency and economic picture for that green energy. Yes, you now have the cost of the batteries, but even then you should still come out with a lower Price per energy generated by green sources. But going even further, whether you consider green energy to be a waste or not - it is here to stay. If it's going to be used and governments keep specifying that it HAS to be used, then we bloody well should make it as efficient as possible, capturing the excess generated power for use when it's needed makes good sense all round...

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Sorry but how

            lglethal, you're attributing things to me based on your prejudices, not my words. You fail to ask why are we generating "excess" energy with windmills when we could have a sensible mix of dispatchable and non-dispatchable energy such that there's no "excess" needing to be stored. Gas can be stored with very little loss compared to charge/discharge cycles of batteries and the problem of what to do with batteries after their useful life has been expended.

            The path we are on was set in motion by the politicians who promised that in return for privatisation, we consumers would have cheaper energy. Manifestly, the reverse is the case.

            As a conservationist (not a greenie) I'm also appalled at the death-rate of the endangered Tasmanian wedgetail eagles. If I kill a wedgies, I go to jail. If you meet the greenie seal of approval (saving the planet), you can slaughter as many endangered species as you like and receive a get out of jail card for free.

            Wedgies BTW have feral cats as 40% of their diet. Feral cats mainly eat small birds who among other useful things eat insects that feed on farmers' crops. Is malathion preferable to wedgetail eagles?

          2. Diogenes

            Re: Sorry but how

            So you'd rather waste 100% of the excess generated energy then be able to store 80% and use it later during times when it's needed.

            Yep and it will all discharge in 4-30 minutes depending on conditions.

            There will be very little 'spare' power to capture - especially when the leccy flowing across the Heywood connector reduces/becomes non existant when Hazlewood closes down. With mooted closures/ maintenance shurtdowns of black coal generator in the Hunter as they reach their end of life there will be very very little 'spare' leccy to shunt around the country.

            The only way to fix the mess is to get rid of the stupid 'must take' laws, ie if soloar & wind are generating anything, that must be be purchased first - which is what is making switching Pelican Point on unviable.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Sorry but how

      From what I've heard, SA is a great place for solar power. As an aussie mate put it: "South Australia is hot as balls"

  3. Sanctimonious Prick
    Happy

    Bring It On!

    Even if it is put out to tender, this chatter puts all the other potential bidders out there on notice, that there already is a company that can do it in about 3 months, not three tax wasting insufficient years!

    [ooh, oops! /rant mode off]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bring It On!

      that there already is a company that can do it in about 3 months,

      We will believe that if it ever happens.

      The problem is that all these green energy scams schemes never live up to the hype generated.

      1. APA

        Re: Bring It On!

        It's not a completely idle boast. He did something similar, albeit at a slightly smaller scale, in California in 90 days. Having just opened a shiny new factory the timing is perfect for him to ramp up production.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Bring It On!

      Elon could simply buy land near one of the major interconnectors, do it and announce it's ready to connect.

      The political fallout would be most amusing.

  4. HamsterNet

    Ozzies

    Have the world's largest reserves of Uranium, vast vast empty deserts, so empty we used to blow up nukes regularly on them. Yep no nuclear power plant!

    Have unbelievably large amounts of strong sunshine. Yep just installed solar panels without any storage.

    Yet their answer is Gas.

    1. mathew42
      Mushroom

      Re: Ozzies

      Even better AEMO are forecasting a gas supply shortage will threaten nation's power supplies.

      Nuclear is the correct option but timeframes are too long.

  5. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Farmers think different

    As energy prices soar, Australia's farmers have had to rethink their energy strategies. Irrigation pumps need energy and electricity prices have soared so time for a rethink. Solar doesn't work at night when most irrigation takes place (less evaporation loss). Wind tends to be low at night also.

    Most farmers don't have a few million dollars spare for batteries. My friends in Queensland tell me they are installing new diesel plant to run their irrigation. It's the lowest cost alternative to electricity. Whoda thunkit? Green energy initiatives lead to increased demand for diesel.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Farmers think different

      Well, the water could be pumped up into a tower by day... Store the energy as potential energy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Farmers think different

        Well, the water could be pumped up into a tower by day.

        Using what form of energy? Solar won't cut it unless there are several hectares of panels which removes that amount of ground from crop production.

        If the cost of buying energy exceeds the cost of diesel fuel then the sensible thing is to use diesel generators for your energy needs.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Farmers think different

          "Solar won't cut it unless there are several hectares of panels which removes that amount of ground from crop production."

          You're overthinking it in one direction and underthinking in another.

          Greenhouses have a major problem with excess heat (which can be used by a water pump) and can be used to grow high value crops with far lower levels of pesticides/herbicides used thanks to being enclosed, if the heat is removed. There are a number of schemes doing this around the world.

          100m^2 of shed roof will drive a 10kW water pump quite happily anyway.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Farmers think different

        Well, the water could be pumped up into a tower by day...
        Why do townies think farmers have millions of dollars just itching to be spent on boondoggles to keep townies happy? Try calculating how much storage is needed to apply 25 mm of water on a hectare of land. Then there's the tower to hold all that water up high enough to provide the needed head. The cost would be way higher than electricity and diesel is already ~30% cheaper than electricity.

        There's a very good reason that less than 1% of Australian farmland is irrigated.

    2. mathew42
    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Farmers think different

      "Solar doesn't work at night when most irrigation takes place"

      I've been faffing around with various bits of solar tech enough to know that solar stirlings work pretty bloody well to fill header tanks during the day - and the "hot as balls" part is good when you have a steady supply of cooling water to keep the cold side colder and raise thermal efficiency.

      Not all energy schemes need high technology and complex electronic devices.

  6. mathew42
    WTF?

    Tax payers won't be slugged.

    This is my favourite line from the press conference:

    The Premier said SA taxpayers would not be slugged for the energy plan and the money would come from budget surpluses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tax payers won't be slugged.

      A labour government with a budget surplus, have we moved to a different planet? Maybe that is code for 'we will raise taxes to cover this'.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Tax payers won't be slugged.

        They didn't say it would be their budget surpluses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tax payers won't be slugged.

          It comes from somewhere. There's no such thing as free money. What a waste.

          Reminds me of Solyndra.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Tax payers won't be slugged.

            It comes from somewhere. There's no such thing as free money. What a waste.

            Every time I have a budget surplus the government tries to spend it for me :(

  7. mathew42

    Frequency regulation

    The biggest issue SA faces in the power grid is keeping the frequency consistent across the grid. Each wind tower is a micro generator which needs to be kept in sync with the grid and that was the cause of failure when the entire state was blacked out.

    Large generators are great at regulating frequency because they have a high inertia.

    1. druck Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Frequency regulation

      It's easy keeping each windmill in sync with the grid using power converters, but they can only follow, never lead. i.e. When the load is too high on conventional generation plant and the frequency drops, they can only match that frequency, and not bring it back up to nominal, as starting more conventional plant would. You then get the situation where you have enough power, but the grid has to load shed not so as not to cause a frequency excursion.

  8. druck Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Throwing good money after bad...

    ...to try to shore up unreliable wind with an insufficient amount of short lived and costly (both financially and environmentally) lithium batteries,

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Throwing good money after bad...

      "costly (both financially and environmentally) lithium batteries"

      Lithium tech is mostly recyclable and the primary component for the latest generation is olivine - which is one of the most common igneous minerals there is. Longer-term, the primary source for stationary battery banks is intended to be end-of-life car packs (power to mass ratio isn't critical for stationary applications after all)

  9. Starace

    100 days from contract signature

    Elon hasn't exactly had huge success with meeting specific deadlines in the past so I'll assume he knows he'd never be asked to meet this one.

    The statement does get him in the press though...

    1. AdamT

      Re: 100 days from contract signature

      Well, this project isn't rocket science and they've done it before:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/business/energy-environment/battery-storage-tesla-california.html

      "Manufactured, shipped, installed and readied for operation in roughly three months ..."

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "So you'd rather waste 100% of the excess generated energy then be able to store 80% and use it later during times when it's needed."

    Err,, no. Without the batteries to charge the energy won't have been generated. There will have been the potential to create the energy but it won't have been utilized.

    How that affects the revenue of the wind farms I couldn't say.

  11. Cuddles Silver badge

    Not fixing the problem

    "chose to black out South Australians rather than turn on a power station"

    The problem is not that there isn't enough generation capacity, but rather that the operator refused to actually use the available capacity when necessary. Building a big pile of batteries and a small back-up plant isn't going to fix the problem, since the lack of back-up wasn't the issue in the first place. Proper oversight preventing the operator from blacking out 60,000 homes for no reason seems to be what's needed.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Not fixing the problem

      Proper oversight preventing the operator from blacking out 60,000 homes for no reason seems to be what's needed.
      By oversight I presume you mean the use of force. The reason the operator never fired up the Pelican Point plant was it was not economically viable. The reason it was not economically viable is because the SA government legislated to make it economically unviable for the operator to fire it up. The operator did not black out 60,000 homes "for no reason". The operator wants to remain economically viable rather than go bankrupt like Solyndra and that other darling of the greenies, Enron.

      1. missingegg

        Re: Not fixing the problem

        In what parallel universe do you live? Enron was the product of "free market" zealots thinking that deregulating power markets would be a good idea. The overlap of greenies and free market zealots probably isn't zero, but it's a pretty exclusive club.

        1. Diogenes

          Re: Not fixing the problem

          No Enron was an example of crony capitalism , which is not the same a free markets or even true capitalism

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Not fixing the problem

            The Greens kid themselves that they are being influential. They apparently thought the corrupt entity Enron was being a good corporate citizen; an example all other business should emulate:

            Parenthetically, I heard many times people refer to Enron in glowing terms. Such praise went like this: “Other companies should be like Enron, seeking out 21st century business opportunities” or “Progressive companies like Enron are….” Or “Proof of the viability of market-based energy and environmental programs is Enron’s success in power and SO2 trading.”

            The "people" referred to in this quote being spokespeople for Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, GermanWatch, the US Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch.

  12. Dale 3

    Load shedding

    A lot of South African expats now living in South Australia must have had a big skrik thinking they had woken up in the wrong SA again. I wonder which is worse, load shedding due to not starting up the quick reaction generator station, or load shedding due to the govenment having forgotten they needed to build one in the first place.

  13. Brian Catt

    OI! How About Doing the Maths on Storeage?

    OI! Reality check from the UK, where, OK , 50 degrees North solar is useless, and in the scorched empty Oz wilderness it can usefully offset a/c demand in real time, still at a subsidised premium.. But I address the larger scale dependnency and reliance on the S word. Has anyone done the maths on storage yet?

    First you don't need expesnive renewables plus expesnive storage because you can generate as much energy as you need cheapest and unsubsiised with nuclear or clean low carbon gas.

    Second of all, here is a sum. For the UK but do your own for SOz. A week of windless winter, when renewables = wind as solar is no-nexistent, requires 0ver 6.4 TWh of energy. I costed that in car batteries and PowerWalls. Copy linked below. Roll yer own for OZ. A Powerwall is optimistically specified at 85KWh for £4,500 in the UK.That would add a cost of £340B in power walls replaced every 3 years or so for a week's leccy, that you didn't need in the first place if you built what just works unsubsidised and people weren't such delusional tree hugging energy science denying Drongos, that is.

    I link a copy of my paper on this. Review of facts welcome. Put in Oz terms even more so. The UK Parliament have accepted this and published it.

    If you are in a hole stop digging, diggers. Fixing a broken belief even more expensively is making a FUBAR from a SNAFU. Why not build what works best instead? Most affordable, adequate, decarbonising, sustainable and safest of all, unsubsidised, all you can eat. etc. - gas replacing coal followed by nuclear,on the existing grid, all there is that can deliver the energy you need, when you need it, after fossil. If you believe in climate change, gas then nuclear replacing coal on the grid is the fastest and cheapest way to reduce your CO2 related bit of it. Absolute fact.

    But those are just the laws of physics, delivered as engineering. You can pass some political laws that deny them to subsidise renewables and make a lot of subsidy profits for lobbyists and payola for politicians. I would't bet your economic future on them, though. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1976309/Storage%20Reality%20in%20a%20Renewable%20Energised%20Environment

    OI! Do the maths, join the dots Please tell me what's wrong with the facts and calculation if you disagree. Better still do one for the South Australian grid. In haste but on the ball. Typos excepted. CEng, CPhys, MBA.

  14. grumpyoldeyore
    IT Angle

    How about...

    .. a giant Didgeridoo? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/04/140416-solar-updraft-towers-convert-hot-air-to-energy/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about...

      .. a giant Didgeridoo? http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/04/140416-solar-updraft-towers-convert-hot-air-to-energy/

      Well that should work a treat in Canberra - just stick it at the door to parliament house.

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