Tesla Big Battery owner fined for not delivering promised capacity during outage due to accidental settings change

The owners of the 150MW Hornsdale Power Reserve in Australia, known as the Tesla Big Battery, have been fined $900,000 for failing to deliver its promised capacity during a power outage.

However, the failure was not because of a problem with the Megapacks themselves, but rather because of an accidental change to the batteries’ software settings.

According to the ruling by Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko, there was an unplanned outage at Queensland’s Kogan Creek Power Station in October 2019. When that happened, the Megapacks turned on in the fraction of a second they were supposed to and provided enough power to keep the lights on. Since there was no actual power outage, no one thought much of it until later when it was discovered the Hornsdale Power Reserve supplied 13.4MW, instead of the 29MW it was contractually obligated to provide.

An investigation found that the root cause to be a firmware upgrade just a few months earlier in July 2019. During that update the “droop settings” were accidentally changed from 1.7%, the minimum amount required for the batteries to respond as fast as they did, to 3.7%.

Once aware of the problem, the owner of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, Neoen, notified the Australia Energy Market Operator and returned $3.4 million in overpayments it had received over a four-month period for providing power that it was supposed to, but didn’t because of the settings change.

That wasn’t good enough for the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which took Neoen to court over the setting change and won. AER chair Clare Savage said the fine would send an important message to new operators who want to provide similar services.

“It is vital that generators do what they say they can do if we’re going to keep the lights on through our market’s rapid transition to more variable renewable generation. It’s what is expected by every household, small and large business across Australia when they pay their electricity bills,” she said. (via RenewEconomy)

While the Tesla Big Battery at 150MW was the biggest lithium-ion battery installation when it opened, it has since been dwarfed by the Victorian Big Battery, which has 212 Megapacks with 300MW of power. The battery can power over 500,000 homes for one hour.

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