The Tesla big battery – the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage installation to date – was officially switched on in South Australia on Friday, a day after it had already demonstrated its value by injecting energy into the grid during the previous day’s afternoon peak.
South Australia premier Jay Weatherill, whose government has provided the subsidy for the battery to be built on the grid with the largest penetration of wind and solar anywhere in the world, described it as a “landmark moment”.
“This means that, for the first time, clean and affordable wind energy can be dispatched to the grid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether the wind is blowing or not, improving system reliability,” Weatherill said.
And to prove the point, the Tesla battery was used a day earlier to meet soaring demand in the local afternoon peak as temperatures spiked into the mid and high 30°Cs and wind energy eased off as many people turned on their air conditioners.
The 100MW/129MWh battery discharged up to 70MW into the grid during the afternoon peak (in blue), using wind output it had stored earlier in the day (in red).
The intervention meant that less gas generation was needed, and prices (black line) were moderated. That is expected to be the pattern in the future.
Much has been made of the “billionaire tweets” and the 100 day installation “or it’s free” promise by Elon Musk, but in the end the only deadline it had to meet was that of December 1, imposed by the state government contract. Be ready for summer. And it is.
The battery is made up of a series of 100kWh Tesla Powerpack battery storage units, and is connected to the grid next to the 315MW Hornsdale wind farm. It will be owned and operated by French renewable energy developer Neoen, which built the wind farm.
The battery has been tested over the past week after construction was completed ahead of time, showing its flexibility, and value.
It marks a momentous day for the national grid, and a major step towards a modern network that will ultimately deliver cheaper, cleaner, smarter and more reliable energy than we have now.
The push for battery storage was made by the South Australian government following the state-wide system black last year, and particularly the load shedding that occurred in February when one of the country’s biggest and most efficient gas generators sat idle while tens of thousands of consumers had their power cut off.
It is expected to be just the first of a number of battery storage installations in South Australia, and across the country, and will be followed by a number of pumped hydro projects too.
Weatherill said South Australia, which now leads the world with the amount of wind and solar in its grid (more than 50 per cent, and more than 60 per cent in the last two months), is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy.
“This is history in the making,” he said. “Neoen and Tesla approached the state government with their bold plan to deliver this project, and they have met all of their commitments, ensuring South Australia has back up power this summer.
“I want to express my gratitude to the workers who have constructed this battery – they have every right to be proud of what they’ve constructed.”
Neoen deputy CEO Romain Desrousseaux said the battery – officially known to the market as the Hornsdale Power Reserve – will help South Australia lead the way into a clean energy future.
Neoen is also building several solar farms in Victoria and NSW, and all up has some 1GW of projects in the pipeline, including a unique wind farm and battery storage project that will supply Australia’s largest glasshouse for growing vegetables with 100 per cent renewable energy.
Tesla said in a statement that the completion of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in record time shows that a sustainable, effective energy solution is possible.
“We are proud to be part of South Australia’s renewable energy future, and hope this project provides a model for future deployments around the world,” it said.
“The South Australian government should be congratulated for ensuring their energy supply is not only sustainable, but will help solve power shortages, reduce variability, and manage summertime peak load.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk did not attend the formal opening.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.