Tesla Energy's distributed energy software, Autobidder, is similar to automated stock traders.
Distributed systems let individuals share the "leftovers" of things like computing power and energy.
Tesla says Autobidder is what runs its new and very successful battery farm in South Australia. But what does this software do, and what could it do?
Though its website is clogged with business-to-business doublespeak, if Autobidder's overall behavior at that battery farm is any indication, the model itself is pretty straightforward. Battery facilities like Hornsdale Power Reserve are designed to capitalize on the difference between peak usage and low usage.
“Batteries are highly flexible assets, but they require smart strategies and software to realize their full value,” Autobidder's website explains. “Autobidder allows owners to realize this value by handling the complex co-optimization required to successfully stack multiple value streams simultaneously.”
Basically, people who own battery farms and even homeowners with rooftop panels shouldn’t need to have business degrees in order to translate their investment into a reduced utility bill or even a passive income stream. Autobidder is using an adapted version of the software model for automated stock trading or any other machine learning algorithm that buys and sells goods. (Right now, that also includes the people who have trained software to automatically buy out masks, toilet paper, and other necessities.)
Tesla is currently hiring engineers around the world for its distributed systems teams, including Autobidder and others. And the product has a track record, at least according to Tesla.
In a July 2019 press release about another product, Tesla wrote that “customers have already used Autobidder to dispatch more than 100 GWh of energy in global electricity markets.” (Tesla has a similar product called Opticaster that seems the same as Autobidder, but without the emphasis on sales.)
How does a distributed system like Autobidder work? It’s related to ideas like cloud computing and even bitcoin. Musk has used the idea of a distributed load in many of his products, and he’s not alone—distributed problem solving can save energy, use resources more effectively, and even increase quality of work by simply involving many more people.
In a distributed system, a bunch of users dedicate some small amount of their computing power toward a common goal. And in the Tesla Energy distributed battery system, a bunch of users contribute their excess energy storage back into the grid. In both versions, something users aren’t using that might otherwise be wasted is put toward a goal instead.
Bitcoin grew from something small that ran in the background into a global demand that choked the market for GPUs. But Autobidder is just a piece of monitoring software, and users with Tesla roofs or battery farms can only sell or trade as much power as they can store.
Indeed, the fact that installing solar often comes with tax breaks, negative electricity rates, and other financial incentives has made a big dent in consumer resistance to solar technology. Now, energy battery storage is taking the same path.
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