Tesla’s Giant Australian Battery Farm Is Now Online

Elon Musk made good on his ‘100 days or it’s free’ promise.

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Tesla’s Giant Australian Battery Farm Is Now Online © Tesla’s Giant Australian Battery Farm Is Now Online

A massive Tesla battery farm is now online and storing electricity from wind turbines in the Australian state of South Australia, according to the local government. Tesla CEO Elon Musk lived up to his "100 days or it's free" promise for the installation of the system, with work completed just 63 days after the contract was signed.

The 100-megawatt installation is the largest of its kind in the world, according to the South Australian government. It will provide electricity to the grid generated by wind 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not the wind is blowing, a government press release said. That's the advantage of coupling renewable energy with battery energy storage.

While renewable-energy sources like wind and solar are only available intermittently, energy storage allows the electricity generated from those sources to be available whenever it is needed. When wind and solar power are available, a surplus of electricity is produced. That excess power can be stored in battery packs for later use.

The South Australian battery array isn't the first utility-scale energy-storage project, but it was started under somewhat unusual circumstances. 

After a massive blackout in September 2016, the state government began looking at energy storage as a way to provide more reliable power from renewable sources. Lyndon Rive, Tesla's vice president of energy products and Musk's cousin, subsequently visited South Australia and said Tesla could solve the state's energy problems in 100 days. Entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brooks then tweeted at Musk asking if the Tesla CEO was serious. Musk said if Tesla didn't install the system in 100 days from signing a contract, it would be free.

The battery packs were delivered a few weeks ago, but the system had to undergo testing to ensure it could interface with the grid before going live. The battery farm will draw power from the Hornsdale Power Reserve wind farm near Jamestown, South Australia, which is operated by renewable-energy company Neoen.

Installation of such a large battery farm is a major step forward for energy storage. If the system lives up to expectations, it could serve as an example for other projects, providing a boost to renewable energy and helping to decrease use of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

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