It’s the size of an American football field, can power 30,000 homes, and owes its existence to a high-stakes wager between two billionaires. It’s the world’s largest battery array, and the government of South Australia just switched it on.
Earlier this week, we told you that Tesla’s Elon Musk had built a 100MW battery array for South Australia in response to a dare by Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO of Australian software company Atlassian. Musk pledged to complete the battery in 100 days or it’d be free, and Tesla completed the task a full 40 days early.
The NY Times mused that it may have been a publicity stunt. (But then, isn’t that the sum of Elon Musk’s existence?)
Recalling the moment he became aware of Musk’s offer, Jay Weatherill, the premier of South Australia, “said he started to sweat. If he embraced Mr. Musk’s proposal, would it look like a billionaire American entrepreneur was strong-arming his state into redefining its energy policy?”
Regardless, the battery is ready, and on Friday, Weatherill’s government turned it on. And just in time. Due to a confluence of factors, Australians pay a mint for electricity, leading to periodic blackouts (one of which precipitated Musk’s 100MW battery).
The battery will store massive energy reserves, which will help during periods of high demand and prevent blackouts. It’ll also bolster the state’s enormous wind and solar capabilities. As recounted by the Times, Australia is the sunniest continent on earth (which should make it a goldmine for solar power), but Australians pay 50-100% more for power than Americans do.
“More than 40 percent of South Australia’s electricity is coming from wind, which is good,” said Tony Wood, an energy director at the Grattan Institute. “But the consideration of how to integrate it — and manage that intermittency — wasn’t so good.”
South Australia wants to better manage its electrical grid, while Tesla wants to use the 100MW battery as a learning experience and shop its idea globally. So even if Elon Musk’s intentions aren’t 100% altruistic (which needn’t be the goal of multi-billion dollar global conglomerates, anyway), it’s win-win.
Read more here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/world/australia/elon-musk-south-australia-battery.html