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Keeping South Australia's Lights On Is A Race For Tesla's Big Battery

Keeping South Australia's Lights On Is A Race For Tesla's Big Battery
To help keep the lights on in Australia’s most wind-dependent state, construction has started on building the world’s biggest battery one year after the state of South Australia suffered a major blackout
As electricity demands begins to peak in December, the state is counting on it to be ready by the start of the southern summer which is being made by Tesla who won a bid in July to build a 129 megawatt hour (MWh) battery
And vowing to install it within 100 days of signing a grid connection agreement or give it to the state for free was Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, currently visiting South Australia for a space conference.
“Construction at the site is already well underway,” South Australia Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis told the media. “The batteries are on track to be operational by December 1.”
Australia’s conservative federal government was split and renewed calls to support coal-fired power resulted from last year’s blackout which had fueled a backlash against renewable power as he opponents of renewable energy claimed that the state-wide blackout was due to the state’s rush to embrace wind and solar power.
But Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison says it is just a “Hollywood solution” that is not solving the bigger problem of how to supply power when the wind isn’t blowing even though South Australia hopes the Tesla battery will forestall further blackouts
Around $750 to $950 per kilowatt, or up to $95 million is estimated to be the cost of the battery according to analysts. The battery will be tied to a wind farm run by France’s Neoen for geholding wind generated power.
If it failed to deliver the project on time, the cost to Tesla would be “$50 million or more”, Musk had said in July.
Following the closure of one Australia’s biggest coal-fired power stations in the neighboring state of Victoria, the country faces a very tight power market this summer, the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned.
“The battery has a very useful role to play in the South Australian electricity system at the moment,” said Sydney-based energy analyst David Leitch at ITK Services Australia, adding it was valuable insurance against the much heavier costs of another blackout.
$105 million was lost last year when it was shut for two weeks by the blackout, wiping out the mine’s annual profit by the state’s biggest power user, global miner BHP’s Olympic Dam copper mine, alone.
The battery has been designed to help control frequency on the grid at times when gas-fired plants are unable to help balance generation and power demand or to help cover temporary dips in wind power, say for 15 minutes.
“What they’re trying to do is buy a little bit of time for other systems to respond to fluctuations,” said Bikal Pokharel, an analyst with energy consultants Wood Mackenzie in Singapore.
It was still working to develop the grid connection agreement for the Tesla/Neoen project, Transmission company ElectraNet said. there was no comments available from Neoen on the timeframe.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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