Energy Reliability from Big Batteries for Texas and Beyond

Welcome back to my blog. I am excited to write about Tesla Energy. This week I was honored to host Johnna Crider in Austin when she was here to interview Elon Musk for her podcast, “Getting Stoned.” She invited me along, and even let me ask questions to Elon Musk about Tesla Energy. I will share more about that in the future after she releases her podcast. In this article, I will give a little background on the developments related to Tesla Energy in Texas.   In November 2021, Elon Musk said

“Tesla Megapack batteries will help stabilize the grid this winter” – Elon Musk

Tesla Working with ERCOT at Full Speed

Arushi Sharma Frank, US Energy Markets Policy Lead at Tesla, spoke about something few people know. Tesla has been working successfully for nearly three years with ERCOT. Here is part of what she said in public comments to the ERCOT Board of Directors on June 21, 2022.  Arushi said,

"Tesla has been working with ERCOT in Texas to support its efforts to improve the resiliency and innovation of the grid. 

In 2020 Tesla approached ERCOT for the first time to come up with the language in the nodal protocols that will allow Tesla Megapack to interconnect in the state. 

We participated and collaborated with all stakeholders, utilities, independent generators, the consumer segment, and the whole group, and within a year we were able to pass changes that allowed a 100 Megawatt battery to interconnect timely the following summer.

For perspective, this was just a few months after storm Uri when the battery went live in June ... and support the grid immediately the next summer. 

The one-year time period is incredible.

There is no other market where I think our company or any other company could change market rules, implement them and interconnect a 100 Megawatt battery in one year.

That was an incredible success! I want to make sure that everybody knows that it is an incredible precedent and that precedent must continue in how ERCOT addresses and how stakeholders address innovation in this market.  

In 2021 Tesla sponsored another NPRR [Nodal Protocol Revision Request] which is happily on your agenda today as unanimously supported by the Technical Advisory Committee.  

That is NPRR 1100. We came up with NPRR 1100 in its infancy when we realized that we had the ability to build another large battery on land that is contiguous with the Gigafactory Texas and we had more than one use case for how that battery could be used.”
Gigafactory Texas Solar Roof spells TESLA June 23, 2022 Credit Jeff Roberts

Arushi explained that in the simplest case, the big battery can participate for its full nameplate value in the energy and ancillary services market and provide grid reliability services. 

In another case, she explained,

“If the substation or the connection to the grid is down, and the battery just cannot get its energy out to the system, the battery could still be used and be connected locally as a microgrid to another load to help that load with its operations,”  or to put it another way, when the grid is in a crisis and a substation is down and the load can’t get power from anywhere else, NPRR 1100 will allow that battery to provide that power. 

In the case of Gigafactory Texas, Arushi explained that NPRR 1100 would allow the gigafactory to receive backup power for some functions such as the safe shutdown of critical equipment if there was a grid failure impacting the electric substation.

Protecting People and Businesses in the next Critical Emergency

I interpret that what Tesla is offering to the grid will help protect people and businesses in the next critical emergency.  Arushi explains it this way,

“The reason this NPRR is so important is that it creates a brand new value proposition for large batteries which could be essential to a lot of large critical loads in the state. 

Think hospitals, think companies that make toilet paper, think anything that can suffer from a grid emergency and allow those companies to enter into contracts with developers of large batteries, and that contract is still economic for the developer, because on a good day they can participate in the market and get that value from the ERCOT but on a bad day they can turn around and use that large capacity the system to support safe operations at a very large facility.  We're talking facilities with loads of 50 to 100 megawatts.

DERs [Distributed Energy Resources]

The Texas grid can become even more stable with the help of individual powerwall owners’ contributions. Arushi explained Tesla’s next step,

“I want to end it by talking about Tesla’s next initiative, and that is something you’ve heard about in the news I’m sure, as well as from ERCOT directly - and that is figuring out the reliability of the distributed energy system. Tesla’s first initiative in 2020 was about Tesla participating as an independent generator in the market. Tesla’s second initiative was about Tesla participating as an industrial consumer in this market. 

This initiative is about Tesla’s customers.  And it is also about the retail energy offer that Tesla can bring to this market that relies primarily on the reliability and the innovation that is waiting on the distributed system, to the tune of gigawatts.

It is going to be a lot of work and we know it is because DER  [Distributed energy resources] integration has taken work in every market. It is probably going to take three or four years. 

But the efforts that Tesla has led over the past year not only speed things up but will allow this market to dip its toe in the water and do so by using private companies like us to take the front load of the efforts to support the studies that are needed to change the system for the better.

If the board has questions or if you believe the ERCOT staff should be working on these specific issues we would love the board's support and the public support to unlock this next step of resiliency on the grid. Thank you.” 
Tesla Powerwall as a DER, Credit Tesla 2021 Impact Report

You can listen to Arushi Sharma Frank’s comments at the Texas Public Utility Council Board meeting here.

A brief summary and my thoughts

Tesla is ramping up its participation in strengthening the Texas grid with big batteries, and soon with DERs that include powerwalls from Tesla customers. Tesla has already helped support the grid, and has done it faster than expected. We depend on power all the time, for our devices, our apartments, food storage, and just about everything.  Power requirements are increasing, not decreasing. All people, globally, will one day rely on energy stored in giant batteries.

Here are two ways you can support these efforts, and you do not need to own a Tesla or Powerwalls to do it.

  • Send an email to your state’s utility commission or power provider expressing your support for a strong energy grid based on battery storage. 
  • Take the opportunity to learn about Virtual Power Plants and Distributed Energy Resources.  

Here is a link to information about Tesla Powerpack [Utility and Business Energy Storage]

Link to learn about Tesla Energy Plan, Australia’s Largest Virtual Power Plant

Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash

I would love to share a few more interesting articles with you that relate to Tesla Energy!

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Gail Alfar [Edited by Sarah Alfar] Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This blogpost was created utilizing STARLINK satellite services. All Rights Reserved. June 26, 2022

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