Tesla Inc switched on the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery on Friday, 1 December in South Australia. Elon Musk’s giant lithium-ion battery has been completed weeks ahead of schedule. Tesla has won a massive money-back bet with the Australian government. The 129-megawatt-hour battery – the largest in the world – will store and dispatch energy generated by a nearby wind farm. This battery will provide a reliable electricity supply for 3,000 homes.
Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt-hour battery for South Australia which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but it suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months. According to a report by the Financial Express, State Premier Jay Weatherill at the official launch at Hornsdale wind farm was quoted saying, “South Australia is leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy.”
This project has been subsidized by the state government, which is building greater resilience into its power following blackouts last year that sparked a nationwide debate about the reliability of renewable energy.
The farm has 99 wind turbines and generates electricity that can be stored in the battery to serve 30,000 people for about an hour. Tesla said that the project in South Australia showed “that a sustainable, effective energy solution is possible.” This marks the latest phase of a lithium-ion battery revolution, which advocates say is transforming the world’s energy systems by enabling the integration of low-cost solar and wind power into national grids.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk visited the site which in July which is some 225 kilometres north of Adelaide and hailed the battery as “just the beginning”. The state, however, is yet to reveal how much it will pay Tesla. Musk said that if he didn’t get the battery installed within 100 days, he would pay the bill, which could have been up to US$50 million. The 100 days was launched on September 29.
Rivals go bigger
South Korea’s Hyundai Electric and Energy Systems Co. is building a 150-megawatt-lithium-ion unit, 50% larger than Musk’s, that the company says will go live in about three months in Uslan near the southeast coast.
Battery prices have been tumbling since 2014, which has led to large-scale projects popping up around the world. Ali Asghar, senior associate of Bloomberg New Energy Finance said, “Musk has set a benchmark on how quickly you can install and commission a battery of this size. Falling costs are making them a compelling mainstream option for energy storage applications in many areas around the world, projects even bigger than that if Tesla’s are now under construction.”
California-based Tesla is best known for making electric cars, the company sells its lithium-ion batteries to utilities eager for cost-effective ways to integrate renewable sources of power like solar and wind into their electric grids.
The battery-storage industry is becoming increasingly important in places like South Australia, which has less access to traditional fossil-fuel sources like coal and gas than the rest of the nation. Instead, the region gets 41% of its electricity from renewable energy, one of the highest penetrations of wind and solar in the world.