The South Australian government has embarked on an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’ by equipping 50,000 homes in the state with free solar power systems and batteries.

Giving a huge boost to South Australia’s renewable energy program, the $800 million project will eventually see the program rolled out to create a network of 50,000 households, which will feed the 250-megawatt virtual power plant.

The program has already begun with a trial covering 1100 Housing Trust properties, with each household being provided a 5kW solar PV system, a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery and a smart meter, completely free of charge.

The trial will be followed by the distribution of the package to an additional 24,000 Housing Trust properties. A similar offer will also be made to the general public. The implementation is estimated to take about 4½ years, with the project expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30 percent as well as meet 20 percent of the state’s daily energy needs, increasing SA’s energy stability.

The state government is providing a $2 million grant to begin the program along with a $30 million loan from the Renewable Technology Fund. The sale of electricity generated through the virtual grid will also partially finance the project.

Expressions of interest are now open for members of the public who wish to participate in the program.

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill said the free solar project would increase renewable energy generation in the state, leading to improved stability as well as reduced bills for all South Australians from the cheaper power. Additionally, the free systems being provided to households will also help them become self-sufficient.

Most of the beneficiaries live in social housing with the program expected to improve their standard of living through energy savings.

This clean energy initiative by the state government has been welcomed by South Australians who would also like the rest of the country to follow their lead on renewable energy.