Tesla is working with French renewable energy company Neoen to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia, to ensure stability for the power grid. CEO Elon Musk traveled to Australia on Thursday to announce the project, which he said will be “three times more powerful than anything else on earth.”
“The world will look at it as an example…[of] a large-scale battery application for the grid that will really take a large amount of load,” he said. This is definitely the way of the future, and I think other states will be taking a closer look at this and seeing if it’s applicable to their needs. And I suspect in most cases it is.”
Jay Weatherill, South Australia’s premier, also announced the project on Twitter and Facebook ahead of Musk’s press conference. He said it would put the state “at the forefront of global energy storage technology.”
Tesla won the bid to provide a Powerpack battery with a capacity of 100 MW/129 megawatt-hours. According to Tesla, it will be used to store energy from the nearby Hornsdale wind farm, to deliver energy during peak usage hours.
South Australia has faced difficulties with its power grid in recent months. In September of 2016, a storm interfered with supply from the state’s transmission network, leaving an area four times the size of the UK without power. In the aftermath, the head of Tesla’s battery division said they could solve the state’s energy problems within 100 days, supplying 100 to 300 MWh of storage. When Australian entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes called out the bet on Twitter, asking if Tesla was serious, Elon Musk doubled down, saying “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?”
Musk said he wants the battery to be a “tourist destination” in itself. “We will want to make it look good,” he said, suggesting it may take shape into “nicely arranged white obelisks that look like they’re unearthed from the future.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people looking at it,” he added.
He also cautioned, however, “When you make something three times as big, does it still work as well? We think it will, but there is some risk in that. We’re confident in our techniques and the design of the system.”
He believes the battery will stabilize the grid and lower prices for consumers.
“You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer,” he said. “It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid.”