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No More Blackouts: Tesla Powerpack to Back Up Australian Power Grid

No More Blackouts: Tesla Powerpack to Back Up Australian Power Grid

A large-scale battery system will store the power generated by a wind farm and put it back in the grid when needed to meet energy demands.

Although much of today’s world relies on an energy grid, those grids often have faults and weaknesses—some of them major. The state of South Australia, for example, has suffered from numerous blackouts. Last September, a major blackout left much of the state without power after a 50-year storm damaged crucial transmission lines. Another major blackout occurred this past February after an unexpected spike in demand due to a heat wave.

Looking beyond calls to “fix the grid,” the South Australian government has decided to use the world’s largest energy-storage system to help eliminate the risk of blackouts. In doing so, it has placed South Australia at the front of global energy-storage technology while potentially proving the technology’s advantages.

Tesla was awarded the entire energy-storage system component of this project, whereby a 129-MWh Tesla Powerpack will be charged using renewable energy from the Hornsdale Wind Farm (still under construction). It will then deliver electricity during peak hours to help maintain the reliable operation of South Australia's electrical infrastructure.

Upon completion by December 2017, this sustainable solution in Jamestown, South Australia will provide enough power for more than 30,000 houses. According to Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, “This will be the highest-power battery system in the world by a factor of 3.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced their large-scale battery project at Adelaide Oval. (Courtesy of The Australian)

Earlier in March, Musk promised on Twitter to build the energy-storage system and get it working within 100 days of a contract being signed, or Tesla would provide it free. During Musk’s official announcement of the project (see figure), he said “That’s what we said publicly, that’s what we’re going to do.” Tesla has not disclosed how much it will be at risk for the “all-or-nothing” payment, but it could be up to $100 million.

Tesla continues to stay ahead of the emerging energy-storage market and keeps disrupting it (see “7 Energy Storage Disruptors to Watch”). We will see more Tesla/Neoen (Neoen is a Paris, France-based alternative-energy company) projects in the future as stated by Hon Jay Weatherill , South Australian Premier, “The deal will also bring other investments by both Neoen and Tesla into South Australia’s economy, with details to be announced in the future. South Australia has been leading the nation in renewable energy—now we are leading the world in battery storage.”

Advances in large-scale battery technologies and their adoption by utilities are accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy. I think large-scale storage, renewable energy and utilities are a perfect match because it creates many advantages for the grid. For example, it gives the grid more reliability since energy storage can provide a way of adjusting to variations in energy demand, as well as reduce emissions and fuel use. If this project has great success, we will certainly see more like them in the near future.

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