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Tesla’s massive Australian battery faces hot competition

Elon Musk’s Tesla is fighting off competition from dozens of international companies to install Australia’s largest grid-scale battery to maintain electricity flow in the country’s most wind-dependent state.

The South Australian state government said on Monday it had received 90 expressions of interest to set up a battery by December with about 100 megawatt hours of capacity to store wind and solar power.

That would be used to stabilise the grid at peak times, which tend to be when the sun and wind are low.

Grid stability has become a hot-button political issue in Australia since a state-wide blackout in South Australia paralysed industry for up to two weeks last September, as well as irregular outages during a severe heatwave over the past summer.

If successful, the storage project could deliver a political windfall to South Australia’s government, vindicating their investment in renewables, and giving Tesla a high-profile platform to demonstrate their product.

Musk was first to say he could supply 100 megawatt hours of battery storage for the state at $250 per kilowatt hour in a social media exchange with the co-founder of Australian software firm Atlassian Corp, Mike Cannon-Brookes.

“Tesla’s interest and enthusiasm in this goes beyond just the Australian market. It is proving a concept and providing a solution,” said Gero Farrugio, managing director of renewables consultancy Sustainable Energy Research Analytics.

The South Australian government did not name the companies who had expressed interest in the project.

A handful of companies have publicly said they would consider supplying the battery: Zen Energy, privately owned Lyon Group, working with US power company AES Corp, and Carnegie Clean Energy, using batteries from Samsung SDI Co Ltd.

Lyon Group said last week it would go ahead with a A$1bn battery project this year, with or without funding from the South Australian government, but the configuration would depend on whether it won any state funding.

At the beginning of this year, Tesla started producing lithium-ion batteries at its Gigafactory in Nevada (pictured above), aiming for cost reductions that will ultimately make electric cars and battery storage more affordable. 

In addition, a grid-scale storage facility in the UK for renewable electricity based on a pumped hydro system could start construction next year after the Government gave planning permission

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