- Elon Musk’s Tesla has switched on the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery, in South Australia.
- Musk had promised to build it in 100 days or give it free.
- The battery is designed to shore up the region’s grid network, which suffers from frequent blackouts.
HORNSDALE, Australia — Tesla switched on the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery on Friday in time to feed Australia’s shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build the battery in 100 days or give it free.
“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy,” Jay Weatherill, the state premier, said at the official launch at the Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by the private French firm Neoen.
Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt-hour battery for South Australia, which has expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country but suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months.
In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state’s renewables push have argued that the battery is a “Hollywood solution” in a country that still relies on fossil fuels, mainly coal, for two-thirds of its electricity.
Supporters, however, say it will help stabilize the grid in a state that now gets more than 40% of its electricity from wind energy — but needs help when the wind dies down.
“Storage can respond within a fraction of a second. It can address those stability issues very quickly without needing to resort to using large power plants,” said Praveen Kathpal, the vice president of AES Energy, which also bid to build the battery.
Highlighting industry hopes for the take-up of battery storage, Tesla CEO Elon Musk in July visited the site, some 225 kilometers (141 miles) north of the state capital, Adelaide, hailing the battery as “just the beginning.”
The state has yet to reveal how much it is paying Tesla.
Weatherill came under fire last year after the entire state went black following a major storm, and he raced to shore up the state’s grid with a $385 million plan, including ordering the big battery and installing diesel-fueled turbines.
Kathpal, who is also the chairman of the US Energy Storage Association, said South Australia’s commitment to turn to energy storage was an important step for the rest of the industry.
“We think that’s what’s really going to accelerate the uptake of energy storage in Australia,” he said.
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