A gigantic lithium-ion battery has started dispensing power into Australia’s energy grid, in what has been heralded as a historic moment.
The battery, built by electric car firm Tesla, is the world’s largest, and is three times more powerful than its nearest rival, chief executive Elon Musk claimed.
Tesla’s Powerpack battery system has been hooked up to a 99 turbines in a wind farm in Southern Australia, and has the capacity to power 30,000 homes for an hour in the event of a black out – common occurrences in a state at the mercy of the weather.
For the first time, the grid will have access to clean and affordable wind energy from Hornsdale Wind Farm 24 hours a day, regardless of whether the wind is blowing.
The 100 megawatt battery will be able to store the renewable energy for when it’s needed, safeguarding the state from power outages.
Close to the entire state – consisting of some 1.7m people – was left without power in Septemeber 2016 following a violent storm, leaving some areas without electricity for over 24 hours. It also suffered black outs as a result of heat waves in February.
Jay Weatherill, the Premier of South Australia, officially turned the battery on in Jamestown, a town 125 miles north of Adelaide, in what he called “history in the making”.
“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7,” he said. “This is history in the making.”
Australia is torn over the reliability and efficiency of renewable energy. While Mr Weatherill is an evangelist for the cause, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government ditched a Clean Energy Target in favour of a National Energy Guarantee, requiring retailers to use a percentage of energy from dispatchable (on-demand) power sources, such as coal, gas, batteries or hydro. The new scheme will deliver lower energy prices for consumer and more provide more reliable power sources, the government claims.
Musk had promised back in March to build the battery within 100 days or the state would receive it for free, following a Twitter exchange with Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes.
South Australia is heavily reliant on renewable energy. The State Government announced plans to create a A$150m renewable energy project fund in March in an effort to make the state more self-reliant for its power, and Tesla duly won competitive bidding for the entire energy-storage arm of the project.
Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 10, 2017
The contract was officially signed on 29 September, and the battery was easily completed within around 62 days of agreement. It is estimated to have cost around US$50m.
Another $1bn lithium-ion battery farm combining 3.4m solar panels with 1.1m batteries is currently under construction in South Australia’s Riverland district.
Alongside its electric and self-driving car ambitions, Tesla is aiming to revolutionise the consumer solar panel industry with its Solar Roof project, which collects energy through durable glass tiles and stores it within a wall-mounted battery.