Tesla’s giant Australian battery plugged into the grid

Tesla has turned on the world’s largest battery in Australia to maintain electricity flow in the country’s most wind-dependent state.

The project was promised by chief executive Elon Musk, who said his company would develop the 100-megawatt battery within 100 days of contracts for the project being signed at the end of September.

He promised that if it was not completed in that time he wouldn’t charge the South Australia state government for the construction. 

South Australia premier Jay Weatherill said the battery had begun dispatching power to the state grid on Thursday, providing 70 megawatts as temperatures rose above 30°C.

"South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," he said.

The official launch coincided with the first day of the Australian summer - the season when power usage soars due to widespread use of air-conditioning units.

Tesla says the battery has the capacity to power 30,000 homes for up to an hour in the event of a severe blackout, but is more likely to be called into action to boost supply during peak demand periods.

Musk’s company won a bid in July to build the 129-megawatt hour battery for South Australia after fighting off competition from a number of other suppliers including Zen Energy, Lyon Group and Carnegie Clean Energy. 

The state has expanded its use of wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months.

The battery power packs are installed near the Outback town of Jamestown, about 200 kilometres north of the state capital Adelaide.

They store energy generated by the neighbouring Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by French renewable energy company Neoen, to bring added reliability and stability to the state grid.

Tesla partnered with Neoen to build the battery, which is more than three times larger than the previous record-holder at Mira Loma, California.

In a politically charged debate, opponents of the state’s renewables push have argued that the battery is a “Hollywood solution” in a country that still relies on fossil fuels - mainly coal - for two-thirds of its electricity.

Supporters, however, say it will help stabilise the grid in a state that now gets more than 40 per cent of its electricity from wind energy, but needs help when the wind dies down.

The battery farm is part of a A$550m (£305m) plan announced in March by Weatherill to make the state independent of the nation’s power grid.

The cost of the battery has not been made public.

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