105: Grids, Big and Small – Tesla Powerwall & Virtual Power Plants

Matt and Sean talk about a decentralized power grid in the form of thousands of at home batteries.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “How My Tesla Powerwall Could Save the Grid”: https://youtu.be/_UJiglrYgJY?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7sp17ey2ydGRGBTFijdYCh

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On today’s episode of still to be determined. We’re going to talk about linking up thousands of Tesla powerwalls to create a robot. No. Ah, virtual power plant system and we’ll go deeper into Matt’s thoughts about having a powerwall for the past year and asking him was it worth it before we get into that I’m Sean Farrell I’m Matt’s older brother I’m a writer and I’ll be asking him the questions and of course you’ll remember Matt is mad. How you doing I’m okay, we just had our first and hopefully only northeaster here in the northeast of the United States and here in New York City we received in my neighborhood about ten inches of snow. How about you guys.
I’m good. How are you doing.
We’re about a foot and a half it looks like but there was so much wind. It’s created these like aracus like snow dunes everywhere. It’s hard to tell how much we actually got.
Yeah, yeah, I wish I had my hoth star wars action figures because I would have gone to the backyard and I’m fifty years old so but it looked like it would have been a lot of fun. So today. We’re gonna be talking about. Matt’s most recent episode how my Tesla powerwall could save the grid that’s quite a bold statement Matt it was dropped on January Twenty Fifth 2022 and

So talking about linking up tesla powerwalls created a lot of commentary and a lot of people sharing things about their own experiences not just with powerwalls but with home grid systems of many different types which I thought were fascinating just a reminder. If you are listening or watching still to be determined, please drop a comment in the video comments area of Youtube or contact us through the contact information in the podcast ah podcast description I can almost say that we’d love to know if you have a home battery or planning a getting 1 and now for the comments this one from Jason Cameron stuck out he wrote I am in a pilot program that was offered by my local power company I am on a microgrid with 10 homes all with Tesla powerwalls. They covered the cost of purchasing and installing the unit. And in turn I allow them to run tests for 5 years benefiting from the powerwall during power outages after the pilot term I own the powerwall outright I have less than a year left in the program I’m wondering does this to you sound like.
It really just kind of like is fascinating to me the idea that a power company would be doing this is it possible that this power company is doing this in conjunction with Tesla would tesla create that kind of partnership.
Probably not tesla is kind of starting to launch their own energy plan that they’re trying to start to sell. They’re already doing this in like Australia and I think they’re trying to rule something similar out in California right now. So I don’t think so like here in the northeast there are power companies like in New Hampshire um I think one’s called green power where they’ve done similar things where they do small pilot programs and to entice people to participate because they need people to participate. It’s like hey he’ll get a free power wall. Um, so it’s like it’s one of those trying to get people in the program. It’s it’s pretty cool that they’re that he’s able to participate in this.
Yeah, and.
And and I’ll guarantee you they’re going to want to roll this out wider because I’ve never seen a report that says an energy company tried this and didn’t like it. It’s like it always seems to be that they keep making them larger and larger because they can save money.
Yeah, and it makes me wonder if this is potentially a big portion of the market for powerwalls and this kind of decentralized grid manufacturer if the. Power companies end up doing it as opposed to individual consumers. That’s a way we haven’t really talked about that. We’ve always had conversations around you as an individual are deciding to do these things to your home. But this experience of Jason’s really seems to indicate that there could be.
It could be.
Some places where it could be the energy company saying you get electricity from us part of our way of doing business is we offer you this powerwall and then you benefit and in Xy and z ways and then they’re decentralizing their grid in a way that benefits them long-term.
Yep, it could be that it seems like a very viable approach I mean there’s a reason why Tesla no longer sells powerwalls directly on their own if you’re getting a tesla solar product you’re getting the battery with it. They come as a a unit now and the reason for that is solar by by themselves. Floods the grid with too much energy. You have to have energy storage to maintain a ah level you know playing field across the the grid. There’s something called the duck curve that happens when you have an influx of too much energy in the midday when you don’t need it and then the evening when you do need it. It’s all gone so you need to be able to shift that that highest peak you need to be able to shift that over. To make up for it and 1 of the ways to do that is you need battery storage and for utilities. It’s really expensive to build that massive battery installations because you’ve one you have to find the land you have to either lease or buy the land. You have to get all these kind of permits done to be able to build the stupid thing out. Then you have to actually buy the batteries do the installation. Do the whole thing and then there’s the maintenance where you have thousands of homes in your area and it’s like what if you just put these little batteries in everybody’s house. You don’t have to go through the permitting. You don’t have to go through.
All the logistics of leasing land and all that kind of stuff so you’re just leaning into what’s already out there in the existing infrastructure and just sprinkling it out there it huge benefit for the utility for companies like Tesla or solark or any other companies that make these batteries. It’s it’s kind of a win win win for everybody. And so it doesn’t surprise me that utilities like the previous comment are starting to go this direction because it’s going to save them money in the long run.
There’s also the wear and tear on battery storage on a major utility level that is avoided by the fact that a powerwall is in your garage or maybe your basement. It’s somewhere inside.
Yeah, it it could be inside but they could also be outside depending on where you live like some of my friends in California they have their powerwalls in the outside of the house for me. It’s inside the garage I’m in the northeast so you want to I wanted to put it somewhere was where it wasn’t go get the elements just like beating on it all winter long. So.
Yeah. Right? It would also I think potentially affect the efficiency and the coldest winter right? It would actually discharge slower. Yeah.
But on the inside but it depends it does when it gets colder. Yeah, but the the thing about like powerwalls is they have internal heaters that are built in that can kind of warm the battery up a little bit and the batteries Once they’re kind of primed they keep themselves warm, but. That only works to a certain temperature then it starts to like not work very well anymore. So It’s like keeping it somewhere where it can stay warmer is better.
Ah, yeah, and I imagine that putting a barbecue or a fire pit next year fire next year powerwall is probably not recommended so our listeners please don’t do that. There was also this comment from Joseph Stayton
Not a good idea. Not a good idea. Yeah.
Who wrote and I thought this was just so kind of cool and diy-ish I went with 4 conventional flooded lead acid batteries because they’re dirt cheap comparatively speaking I’m hoping to add 4 more batteries by the end of summer. My charging system is connected to a water wheel in a creek that runs through my property. Um, getting around four hundred to five hundred Watt output 24 hours a day seven days a week. That’s so cool. Yeah so flooded lead acid batteries that would be is that car batteries. What is that that? yeah.
That is incredible I Love I Love Micro hydropower. He’s got a little micro hydropower system set up. It’s so cool.
it’s basic yeah it’s it’s basically that um, that’s the thing about let acid batteries is they are dirt cheap. The problem is they don’t last for very long and you might have to replace them after 2 to 3 years of use where a lithiumium battery could go 17 years or maybe even longer before you’d want to replace it. So there is a tradeoff and so it’s like how many times are you going to replace that lead acid battery over that same time period and then is the cost still coming out in your benefit it depends on what you’re talking about because I’ve seen reports that say if you go let asset battery. It’s cheaper upfront but then over 10 years you will have spent. Roughly the same amount of money as if you had just gotten lithium mine in the beginning but it really depends on what batteries you’re buying and what you’re talking about.
Right. And ultimately if your goal is not necessarily to like lower your overall costs. But your goal is to I want to source my energy from a place that isn’t from burning coal or. Other Fossil fuels then costs over that long term may not even be part of your equation. Your equation may be entirely I Just want to get hydropower back here and this is the way I’m going to do it. So.
Correct. Okay. On top of which if if it if it works out as a wash in the end. Then yeah, go let acid because it’s like it’s cheaper upfront and even though you may be spending close to the same amount over the lifetime who cares it like it gets you what you need right now and it gets it to you cheap and you’re just slowly paying that same amount every X number of years who Cares. It’s like I don’t I have no vested interest in getting Lithium iron or anything like that and there are smart Inverters. You can get like solark has a system where it’s battery agnostic. They they make their own battery system but you can also get like their inverter and pair it to whatever battery you want. So It’s like bring your lead acid.
Oh okay.
Bring your lithium ion to whatever you want. It’s like it’s just here’s the system and you deiy it on your own put together. Whatever you want. it’s really it’s really neat it’s like 1 of my patrons is doing that.
Is it suggested that if you’re doing that kind of Diy that you pick one storage type and stick with it as opposed to mixing a matches matching storage types like you shouldn’t have a powerwall and some lead batteries because wow more is better. It’s.
Yeah, you would? yeah.
Probably not a good idea to mix that.
Technically, you could probably do it. Ah not probably I’m pretty sure you could do it. It gets very complicated. It’s much easier to say I’m just doing a Lud acid stack and I have a battery management system for this lead at a street lead lead battery stack. Versus okay I have 4 kinds of batteries and I have to have basically 4 different battery management systems that manage each stack and then they unify it’s like it’s very complicated so it’s like I think it would be smarter just to pick one stick with it.
Um, and his numbers of 4 to five hundred watts per day or I mean it’s just that’s constant power. But how how much in in your estimation like if that was how much you were getting what would you be able to run on that in your home.
What’s for yes.
Um, like this would not work for me. It would not supply me 100% of what I need like in the evening like let’s say your cooking dinner would oh yeah, that would easily handle a refrigerator and stuff like that. But if you if you kicked on the microwave that wouldn’t be enough.
But but it would supply you maybe your? ah maybe your refrigerator. Um, right.
Because a microwave might be a thousand Watts so that gets you maybe half of your power at that moment. So it’s like what he’s getting from that creek is probably depending on what he uses is probably 50% of what he needs which is astounding. That’s just coming from a nonstop.
A water source in his yard. That’s really cool.
Yeah I also the romantic in me loves that it’s described as a creek. It’s not a river it’s just a creek so he’s got a little water wheel spinning somewhere. And yeah I just love the idea of that so hat tip to you Joseph. Ah.
Just little creek.
So your video taking a look at ways that the powerwall benefits the larger grid system providing maybe the necessary understructure beneath the larger grid itself. I was wondering obviously things go down today. The grid could collapse and you would have power for a certain amount of time that would benefit you individually but if my understanding is correct part of what you were talking about was.
Ah, conceivable future where there would be enough of these batteries in the system to alleviate those stresses that might cause that major type of collapse.
Correct. Yeah, it’s like it’s conceivable that that could happen.
Um I was wondering have you seen anything that would indicate what kind of numbers would be necessary to get there because this is something one of the things that I’m struck by and you’ve talked about this in this video and you’ve talked about it in other videos.
The catchphrase individual results may vary. It’s dependent on local policy. It’s dependent on local regulations and laws. It’s dependent on what power companies can or are willing to do and. You lay out scenarios where people have pushed back on you and said oh no, you’re not getting what you think you’re getting and your response is well I’m in this part of Massachusetts and that’s what we can get here. You’re in some other place. You know Arizona.
Ohio yeah, yeah.
Or Northern California or wherever and the regulations there are likely different and that’s why you don’t think I can get what I can get. What is what is the preferred system. For you the consumer what is the type of regulation and pricing that benefits you the consumer is it the one that you live under.
Yeah, but that’s a really good I think it’s more like what I’m living under like Massachusetts um passed a clean peak standard recently which is it’s agnostic. It’s somewhat agnostic to whether it’s. You as a private citizen or whether it’s the utility to grid scale. But it’s basically requiring a certain amount of battery storage for a certain amount of renewables. So as you ramp up your renewables. You have to be ramping up battery along with it because it’s a standard that’s basically like we can’t have one without the other they have to go together. Cool.
You can’t just keep pushing solar panels into the communities you have to actually have a way to save the power right.
Correct right? So they have a standard here in Massachusetts that’s kind of like as a homeowner I can do it and there’s incentives that help me do it so that I can get both and then at a utility scale. There’s something similar but then you have states like Florida which are passing. Laws that are very pro big business and are making home ownership of solar harder like they’re deliberately passing things so that utilities can build these massive solar farms and massive battery farms and basically keep correct bingo so it’s like there’s.
It’s protecting the energy company as opposed to helping the consumer right.
Policies can be manipulated in ways that can steer things towards big business or towards the home owners and it’s like my my personal take is. It’s down the middle. It’s like you want to make it easier for utilities to do large-s scale installations but you also want to help incentivize homeowners because in the end the more resilient grid is going to be. Ah. Popourri of different solutions. It’s going to be little little communities that are all like you know a thousand houses that are all kind of contributing and then you’re going to have large installations that are supporting the ah industry or apartment buildings that are Nearby. So It’s like you need a little bit of everything and to skew things into one direction where it’s like. Big utilities are going to stay big utilities. It means they can charge whatever prices they want to charge and it’s not necessarily consumer friendly and so it’s like when it’s a more open platform is where I think the winning solution is going to be.
Yeah, you’ve kind of hit on my second question within your answer to the first one. My second one was what is the type of regulation that benefits the power producers and and you’ve you’ve hit that perfectly. So at this point. Is it broken down mainly by state or are there even regional or local power regulations like does potentially New York city have a different way of regulating power usage and billing than New York State at large.
Sadly, here in the United States it’s still local. It’s I’m in state because like I can’t get time of use rates where I am right now and that’s one way to make a battery make more economical sense because you’re using energy directly from the grid when it’s the cheapest and you’re using it from your battery when that’s most expensive. You can actually time shift your energy use based on the prices that you’re getting from the grid I can’t do that because my energy company is like we don’t offer it in your region but my energy company offers it in other regions. It’s like what is going on Thanks ever source why don’t you do that here Massachusetts but you do it over here.
Makes no sense. So It’s a very local utility to local utility region region until like states step in and say to utilities you have to do it X way or you can’t do what you’re doing over here. You’re not going to get that standardization. It’s a policy is are the only way to get that kind of under control.
Right? And it seems like it would I mean that sounds like it’s not only asking for state regulation but federal that sounds like you would be looking at at I remember when the power grid went down in the blackout of what was it 2002 or 2000
Maybe maybe.
Think it was two thousand and two um half my life ago. Ah the blackened parts of the country were right along state lines and and it really becomes the same thing happened when we were in college and there was a major storm in.
Our hometown area of Rochester and people on our side of the street had power and people on the other side of the street didn’t so these grid lines literally dividing neighborhoods dividing streets in that way. Um.
Had power.
If regulations were more uniform across all states and regions. It feels like it would open up the possibility of competition if you had the ability for different power companies to be able to actually compete across town or City or even state lines.
It seems like you could open up competition in a very positive way. But so when you are trying to. Get this kind of system going and you have a test case scenario that we talked about with Jason Cameron’s comment about his energy company running this pilot testing of of a and certain number of homes over a certain period of years. Would a power company that is looking to promote this kind of undergirding of the system would it depend on homes within specific. Distances of each other all having power on walls or does it not really matter within the system as a whole.
It’s a good question. My base level understanding is it wouldn’t matter that much because it depends on all grids are kind of micro-grids. So like there’s you know there’s neighborhoods are on the same kind of like mini circuit.
I Guess you would say so it’s like as long as you’re not overloading a certain region. You’re going to be fine. But yeah, the utility probably does have to somewhat plan out as they’re rolling things out of we want to get more batteries in this zone. Want to get more batteries in that zone this one has enough so we don’t want to add too many more here because it’s not going to benefit us elsewhere. So There may be a reason for that for why they’d want to do that. But at the same time if you’re just talking about doing like peak shaving which is what the virtual power plant system is doing just kind of as ah, a mass scale. It’s like it. Shouldn’t matter too much but I would I would lean more on people in the industry to really kind of like if anybody’s listening to this I would love to for you to comment down below or reach out to me because it’s like this. That’s a good question I’d like to know more details on that.
Yeah, it would be interesting. It would be interesting to know if if this is the sort of thing that a power company would start saying. Okay, we’re gonna start like cutting up neighborhoods and and making these offers to specific areas because we need these power.
We we need the power storage to be centralized in that way or if they would just benefit from making a broad citywide or region-wide offer of. We’ve got a thousand of these things available. The first thousand people come get them if it didn’t matter that they were ten miles away from each other as opposed to. 50 fty yards and I agree with Matt if you do have any experience with that if you have any insight into that please do let us know you can reach out through the contact information in the podcast notes or you can do it on Youtube by simply scrolling away from the. Images of our beautiful faces and going to the comment section directly below. Don’t forget if you’d like to support the podcast please consider reviewing us on Apple or Google Spotify wherever you listen and if you’d like to more directly support us. You can go to still tbd fm you can click on the become a so. Quarter button you can throw quarters at our head or not but any kind of support really does help the show. Thanks so much for listening everybody. We’ll talk to you next time.

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