On Feb. 4, the Government of South Australia announced plans to build the world's largest virtual power plant by equipping 50,000 individual households with solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 battery system for free. A virtual power plant is a cloud-based power distributing system that "generates, stores, and feeds energy back into the grid," according to the South Australian government. Each household will be responsible to pay for their energy consumption and will be individually metered. "Any excess energy generated by the system will be automatically dispatched to the grid," the government writes. "This dispatched energy will be centrally controlled to meet the needs of the grid, providing additional energy to the rest of the state, when it is required." It is expected that the power plant will lower each participating household's energy bills by 30 percent and will generate 250 megawatt/650 megawatt-per-hour electricity. "By comparison, [the Tesla Powerpack] is 2.5 times the size of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery," according to the South Australian government. The four-year project has already commenced with a free trial for 1,100 public housing households that have been outfitted with a 5-kilowatt solar panel system and a 13.5-kilowatt-per-hour Tesla Powerwall 2 battery.

Following the trial, 24,000 more public housing units will be added to the program, but will be subject to Tesla's assessment and approval. "Some of the key considerations are whether or not the property is physically able to accommodate the solar PV and battery, the orientation of the property for solar access, and any potential shading of the solar PV," the South Australian government explains. It is expected that by the end of the project's timeline, all of the 50,000 participating households will benefit from the same system. "If public interest extends beyond our initial estimates, the program may be able to be extended further."

The overall project cost is estimated to hit $633 million (AU$800 million) which will be covered by investors. Currently, the South Australian government is providing a $1.6-million (AU$2 million) grant accompanied by a $24-million (AU$30 million) loan from its Renewable Technology Fund to assist the project.

Registration is now open for those who are interested in participating.