Tesla Is Donating Solar Panels to Low-Income Australians
The plant will initially provide power to 1,100 low-income residents.
The state of South Australia made the news in 2016 when the region’s entire power grid went down after heavy storms, plunging nearly 2 million people into darkness.
But now, Tesla is working with the state government to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again — and they’re doing so by harnessing the power of the sun.
Starting this year, the state of South Australia will turn on what will eventually become the world’s largest “virtual power plant.” The ‘virtual power plant,’ which will consist of 50,000 single family homes that act as individual solar power generators in an interconnected power network, would be able to restore power to residents “in a fraction of a second” in case of another emergency.
And to help launch the power project, Tesla will provide back-up batteries and solar panels to 1,100 low-income residents free of charge, Quartz reports.
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Tesla’s participation will allow South Australia to build out its new, sustainable power grid more quickly. These initiatives are part of a larger, ambitious target by the region to have 50% of all energy come from renewable energy sources by 2025, a goal it already reached in 2016.
“My Government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery,” Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, wrote on Twitter. “Now, we’re delivering the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant.”
The “virtual power plant” will work by connecting individual homes to a wider power grid, all of which is run on renewable energies, such as solar. If homes don’t use all of the energy their solar panels provide, the excess energy will be fed back into the grid, where it can be sent to other households in need of more power.
To start, 1,100 low-income households will be fitted with rooftop solar panels and Tesla batteries in the next year and a half, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.
The project is funded by a state-run technology fund, in collaboration with outside investors and a $2 million grant, according to The Verge.
Households that opt in to the scheme are expected to save about 30% on their monthly energy costs, the state government has said.
"We know that people in social housing can often struggle meeting their everyday needs and this initiative will take some pressure off their household budget,” Zoe Bettison, South Australia’s minister for social housing, told ABC.
In all, the state hopes to connect up to 50,000 households to the network in the next four years.
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In all, Australia hopes to have 23.5% of its energy come from renewable energy sources by 2020, but South Australia, which is largely covered in deserts, is looking to set more ambitious goals.
“Our energy plan means that we are leading the world in renewable energy and now we are making it easier for more homes to become self-sufficient,” Weatherill said in a statement.