South Australia’s power blackout could be history thanks to Tesla’s “Hollywood solution”.
Almost a year after South Australia suffered a major blackout, it has started building the world’s biggest battery to help keep its electricity grid on and humming in what is being slated as Australia’s most wind-dependent state.
With Tesla winning the bid to power Southern Australia, it began building a 129 megawatt hour (MWh) battery which the Australian government is counting on getting ready by the start of December when demand for electricity typically peaks.
After having won the contract, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive who is currently visiting South Australia for a space conference, had vowed to install the battery within 100 days of signing the grid connection agreement or give it to the state for free.
“Construction at the site is already well underway,” said Tom Koutsantonis, South Australia’s Energy Minister. “The batteries are on track to be operational by December 1.”
In 2016, when the state faced massive blackouts opponents of renewable energy had squarely laid the blame on the state’s rush to embrace wind and solar energy. This had led to renewed calls to support coal-fired power. But now with Tesla’s battery forestalling further blackouts, blackouts are likely to be history.
However, Scott Morrison, Australia’s Treasurer, has termed Tesla battery as a “Hollywood solution” that does not solving the bigger problem of how to supply power to the grid when the wind isn’t blowing.
As per analysts, Tesla’s battery is likely to be connected to a wind farm run by France’s Neoen, which should cost around $750 to $950 per kilowatt, or up to $95 million. In July, Musk had said the cost to Tesla would be “$50 million or more” if it failed to deliver the project on time.
As per energy operators in Australia, the country faced a very tight power market this summer following the closure of one of Australia’s biggest coal-fired power stations in the state of Victoria.
“The battery has a very useful role to play in the South Australian electricity system at the moment,” said David Leitch, an analyst at Sydney-based ITK Services Australia, while adding it was valuable insurance against the much heavier costs of another blackout.
Tesla’s battery has been designed to help cover temporary dips in wind power, to help control frequency on the grid at times when gas-fired plants are unable to help balance generation and power demand.
“What they’re trying to do is buy a little bit of time for other systems to respond to fluctuations,” said Bikal Pokharel, an analyst with energy consultants Wood Mackenzie in Singapore.
As per ElectraNet, a transmission company, it was still working to develop the grid connection agreement for the Tesla/Neoen project.
Neoen declined to comment on the time frame.