Tesla Pays Powerwall Owners to Form ‘Virtual Power Plant’ in California

"Tesla has launched a new virtual power plant in partnership with PG&E in California that will pay Powerwalls owners to help stabilize the electric grid and end brownouts in California," reports Electrek. A virtual power plant (VPP) consists of distributed energy storage systems, like Tesla Powerwalls, used in concert to provide grid services and avoid the use of polluting and expensive peaker power plants. PC Magazine notes the program was launched in conjunction with California power utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company: As well as the personal feeling of satisfaction for helping to stabilize California's grid, you'll receive $2 for every additional kilowatt-hour delivered during designated "events," such as any time grid operator CAISO issues an energy alert, warning, or emergency. Contributors will receive push notifications before and during an event with details of its expected start and finish times. Once an event is over, each Powerwall will automatically resume normal operation. Electrek adds that "The $2 per kWh amount is quite significant and reflects just how much value a Virtual Power Plant can add to the grid in case of an emergency event where the grid needs more capacity. Depending on the events and the number of Powerwalls homeowners have, they could earn anywhere from $10 to $60 per event or even more for bigger systems." But in addition, "Tesla will dispatch your Powerwall when the grid is in critical need of additional power. That is when the least efficient generators would typically come online." And you get the distinction of being pat of "the largest distributed battery in the world — potentially over 50,000 Powerwalls.... Tesla said that it has about 50,000 Powerwalls that could be eligible for this VPP, which add up to a significant 500 MWh of energy capacity than can be distributed in any event... [I]t is basically going to turn the company into a major decentralized electric utility. It's already in operation in Australia. Now it's in California, and soon it is going to be in Texas."

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Here Come the Solar-Powered Cars

The Guardian reports on the "world's first production-ready solar car", a streamlined and energy-efficient sedan-style vehicle covered with curved solar panels called "the Lightyear 0." The Dutch company Lightyear hopes to be shipping the vehicle by November, priced at about $264,000 (€250,000 or £215,000) — though the company plans another solar-assisted car priced at $32,000 (€30,000) as early as 2025. Lead engineer Roel Grooten credits their car's efficiency to things like the "low-rolling resistance of the tyres, of the bearing s and the motor." It is this streamlined design that the company credits for allowing it to muscle its way into a space long overlooked by most car manufacturers...."If we would have the same amount of energy that we harvest on these panels on any other car that uses three times the amount of energy to drive, it becomes useless. It becomes a very expensive gimmick," said Grooten. "You have to build this car from the ground up, to make it as efficient as possible, to make it this feasible." In optimal conditions, the solar panels can add up to 44 miles a day to the 388-mile range the car gets between charges, according to the company. Tests carried out by Lightyear suggest people with a daily commute of less than 22 miles could drive for two months in the Netherlands without needing to plug in, while those in sunnier climes such as Portugal or Spain could go as long as seven months.... In an effort to use as much of this solar energy as possible, the windswept design eschews side-view mirrors for cameras and runs off lightweight electric motors tucked into its wheels. The body panels are crafted from reclaimed carbon fibre and the interiors are fashioned from vegan, plant-based leather with fabrics made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate bottles. The article notes that Mercedes-Benz also plans rooftop solar panels for an upcoming electric car, while Toyota's Prius hybrids also sometimes offer limited-capacity panels as add-ons. Other companies planning solar-assisted vehicles include Sono Motors and Aptera Motors.

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