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Tesla wins first Megapack battery storage order in Japan

Tesla’s Megapack lithium-ion battery storage solution. Image: Tesla.

Tesla will deliver a battery energy storage system (BESS) to a ‘Battery Power Park’ project in Japan which will participate in various electricity market opportunities and help stabilise the grid on the northern island of Hokkaido.  

The order has been made by Japanese energy aggregation company Global Engineering and its engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner Ene-Vision. They are building Hokkaido Chitose Battery Power Park, which is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2022. 

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Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island, has been a popular region for renewable energy development since the country’s feed-in tariff (FiT) programme was introduced in 2012. This is due largely to the low population density and available flat land compared to much of the rest of Japan, but the growth in renewables has been so rapid that local power and grid company Hokkaido Electric Power mandated a couple of years ago that all new renewables facilities must have energy storage.

This has led to a number of recent solar-plus-storage and wind-plus-storage projects including a recently announced retrofit of a 51MWh Sumitomo Electric flow battery to an existing wind farm and a Sungrow DC-coupled lithium-ion battery storage system at a solar plant which went online in February. However the new Tesla project will be a rare early example of a standalone grid-connected battery energy storage system. Global Engineering did say that its main purpose will be to adjust supply and demand on the network to enable more renewable energy to be integrated. 

According to a Tesla Japan press release, the Megapack will be 1,523.8kW / 6,095.2kWh. Global Engineering said in its own release that the system will participate in the wholesale market initially and then join other opportunities as they are rolled out by regulators, including supply and demand adjustment and the capacity market. It will also be usable as an emergency backup power source for local residents in the event of outages or disasters, powering evacuation centres, allowing for mobile phone charging and other essential use. 

Grid-scale batteries yet to go mainstream in Japan

Although the lithium-ion battery was (partly) invented and commercialised in Japan, the country has not yet widely begun the deployment of large-scale batteries for the grid. Households are buying home batteries in their thousands for backup and self-consumption of solar, but overall market design does not really allow for front-of-the-meter use cases like frequency regulation and other ancillary services. 

There is a widespread expectation that this will change in the next couple of years, according to a number of sources has been in contact with. Global Engineering said in its release that it plans to utilise power storage technology to help promote the introduction of renewable energy and decarbonise Japan.

Tesla meanwhile supplied its Powerpack product, which was a smaller system that preceded the Megapack a few years ago, to a project in Osaka in west Japan a couple of years ago. That 7MWh solution, made up of 42 connected Powerpacks, added backup capabilities at a train station and was also aggregated into a virtual power plant (VPP) demonstration project for local utility Kansai Electric Power. 

The company has also been selling its residential Powerwall product in the country for just over a year and Tesla general manager for Japan Hiroki Kubota gave a presentation at the PV Expo trade show in Tokyo in February 2020 about its capabilities as a VPP asset.  

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