by Isabel Baird
A few months ago, Elon Musk made a pretty ambitious bet with Australian politicians. Last week, Elon Musk fulfilled that bet. So what was the wager? Building and installing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia in under 100 days, or do it for free. What a feat for Elon Musk and Tesla to take on. There were doubts that this battery could actually be built in just 100 days, since a battery of that scale had never been built, especially within such a short timeline. But as of December 1st, within the 100 day timeframe, the 100 megawatt battery was up and running as an integrated component of South Australia’s electrical grid.
The battery is the size of an American football field, and can power up to 30,000 homes for an hour. It is connected to the Hornsdale Wind Farm, which consists of 99 wind turbines and can produce up to 1,050,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year. The energy produced by this wind farm can now be stored in Tesla’s new battery, helping to maintain grid reliability and providing South Australia’s residents access to electricity during peak demand time.
Recently, South Australia has been coping with repeated climate change-charged superstorms, which is why this battery is so important and its timing so vital. In September 2016, South Australia was hit hard by a 50-year storm that completely wiped out electricity for the entire state and its 1.7 million residents. But storm-related blackouts are not the only reasons for power outages; load shedding, which is when electricity is shut down due to a lack of supply at high demand times, has become a common issue. This is where the battery comes into play. At times when demand is high and there is not enough electricity being generated, for example by coal plants and wind farms, the grid can draw from the battery’s stored energy (thanks to the Hornsdale Wind Farm) and supply it to the grid so people have electricity. Not only does the battery increase the use of renewable energy, but it also provides an economic benefit as it is easier to scale up with batteries modules, rather than building an entirely new power plant.
Tesla has raised the bar with this effort, and showed that something as ambitious as a 100 megawatt battery is feasible. While this is currently the largest lithium-ion battery the world has seen, it may not stay that way for long. As new technology emerges and renewable energy continues to become more mainstream, batteries will likely become more commonplace, and be capable of providing solutions for energy crises occurring worldwide.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more large-scale batteries being implemented around the world and can’t wait to see what a renewable energy future brings. What do you hope to see with a clean energy future, both on a local and global scale?