Tesla quietly built a virtual power plant in Japan

Tesla’s latest virtual power plant is in Japan. The company announced on Friday that it has been quietly installing its Powerwall batteries in homes on the island of Miyako-jima since 2021 and now has more than 300 installed. It is the largest commercial virtual power plant in Japan, according to the release.

Virtual power plants take advantage of solar panels and batteries in private homes. People with these setups can sign up to send extra power back to their area’s power grid, giving it an extra boost in situations where it’s at risk of a power outage. The grid can use this energy instead of tapping into the gas-fired power plants typically used when the power supply is tight.

The virtual power plant is based on a program by Miyako-jima’s local energy utility, Miyakojima Mirai Energy Co, which installs solar panels and storage batteries for free.

Tesla already has virtual power plants operating in California and Australia and is working to start one in Texas – where it sees an opportunity to add a new source of energy to a still unreliable grid. In California, people with Powerwalls installed in their homes can get $2 for every kilowatt-hour fed back into the grid when it’s energized during emergencies or times of high demand.

Residents of Miyako-jima experience regular power outages during typhoons, and Powerwalls help keep lights on in individual homes. “During typhoons, lights are available, fridges are usable as usual,” a Powerwall customer said in a video posted by Tesla.

Tesla said it plans to install 400 Powerwall units by the end of the year and 600 units by the end of 2023. The company then plans to expand to the rest of Okinawa Prefecture, which covers the constellation of islands stretching between the Japanese mainland. and Taiwan.