On September 28, freakishly high winds toppled almost two dozen towers supporting high tension power lines near Melbourne and Adelaide, Australia. Thanks to automatic protection devices built into the grid, power to the affected areas was cut off within seconds to protect people and utility workers from from potentially lethal electric shock from the downed power lines. But the shutdown then cascaded throughout all of South Australia, an area of some 380,000 square miles. Ever since the blackout, interest in the Tesla Powerwall has surged.
The Tesla Powerwall is a residential storage battery designed to keep the power flowing to a home during power outages. While its capacity is limited to about 5 kilowatts of power, it’s enough to keep the lights on and to power selected appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners. It’s not the same as being connected to the grid, but with wise management it can provide backup emergency electricity for 24 hours or more.
Emily McMahon, co-founder of Off-Grid Australia in Victoria says calls about the Powerwall have jumped 30 times or more since the blackout. “People are sick of the grid in general and the high electricity prices,” she says. Her customers are interested in blackout proofing, the environment, and returns on investment from gaining energy independence. McMahon says people in Australia typically pay between $20,000 and $25,000 for a complete solar power system that includes solar panels, an inverter, a Powerwall, and installation.
Australia has been experiencing a rapid increase in renewable energy in recent years. At the time the windstorms hit last month, wind turbines were providing 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the grid. Near Sydney, a new development is equipping all homes with a complete solar power system, including a Tesla Powerwall. The community has been nicknamed “Tesla Town” as a result.
That hasn’t kept ignorant politicians from jumping into the fray, starting at the very top. According to Australian website Crikey, the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has gone so far as to blame the blackout on too much renewable energy sloshing around the grid at the time. Turnbull and his political cohorts are deep in the pocket of Australia’s extensive coal interests. Some have even suggested that Australia has enough coal buried underground to power the entire nation for 1,000 years.
Americans may recall Donald Trump making a similar statement during the second presidential debate. Politicians get their talking points spoon fed to them by their primary benefactors. Neither Trump nor Turnbull has given the slighest thought to the damage that burning coal would do to the health of the people they supposedly represent and could care less, just so long as they win elections.
In point of fact, every energy professional, including the people how operate the grid in South Australia, maintain that renewable energy had nothing whatsoever to do with the blackouts. The issue was downed power lines, not the source of the electricity they were carrying. It never occurs to these clueless so-called leaders that freakish storms are precisely what climate scientists warn will occur more frequently as alternations in the world’s climate accelerate.
As interruptions in service increase, home energy storage units whether from Tesla or from competing manufacturers will change from being a luxury to a necessity.