Tesla is letting California solar customers with Powerwalls feed their energy back into the grid to help prevent blackouts

Tesla is letting California solar customers with Powerwalls feed their energy back into the grid to help prevent blackouts
Reuters/Patrick Fallon
  • Tesla said Californian Powerwall owners could sign up to its "virtual power plant" beta.
  • Participants will feed electricity generated by the solar systems on their homes back into the grid.
  • Tesla said it won't make money off the project. It's designed to prevent blackouts during high demand.

Tesla will let Californian owners of its Powerwall battery feed electricity back into the power grid during periods of high energy demand to prevent blackouts in the state.

Tesla announced its plan to create a "virtual power plant" last week, and on Thursday launched a support page for the beta test telling Californians how it would work and where they can sign up.

According to Tesla, participants who opt in will receive a push notification on their phone a few hours before a period of high demand. They'll receive another notification as it begins, but won't need to do anything.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

Tesla said it launched the program because it anticipated "potential grid emergencies."

Intense heatwaves have threatened the stability of Western US power grids this summer, and in June California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported California's grid operator was asking producers to sell more electricity to the state to try to head off potential blackouts.


Tesla says it's not making any money out of the program. "As of launch, the Tesla Virtual Power Plant is a public good program to support the California grid, and there is no compensation for Tesla or customers," the company said, although it added that customers getting paid for their energy was a "possibility in the future."

Read more: Fort Lauderdale asked Elon Musk to build a commuter train tunnel. So how did it end up considering a $30 million beach tunnel for Teslas instead?

To qualify for the program, Powerwall owners need to be customers of utilities PG&E, SDG&E, or SCE.

Tesla has launched a virtual power plant system once before, in Australia. The Australian project was announced in 2018, with the stated aim of getting 50,000 households to participate within four years. In September 2020, Tesla said almost 4,000 homes with Powerwalls were plugged into the grid.

Tesla announced in April it would exclusively sell solar systems together with its Powerwall battery. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a court appearance on July 13 that the company was struggling to meet demand for Powerwall due to the global chip shortage.