World

Australia switches on world's biggest lithium ion battery

HORNSDALE, AUSTRALIA Tesla Inc switched on the world's biggest lithium ion battery yesterday in time to feed Australia's shaky power grid for the first day of summer, meeting a promise by Elon Musk to build it in 100 days or do it for free.

"South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy," state Premier Jay Weatherill said at the official launch at the Hornsdale wind farm, owned by private French firm Neoen.

Tesla won a bid in July to build the 129 megawatt-hour battery for South Australia, which expanded in wind power far quicker than the rest of the country, but has suffered a string of blackouts over the past 18 months.

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.

"Storage can respond within a fraction of a second. It can address those stability issues very quickly without needing to resort to using large power plants," said Mr Praveen Kathpal, vice-president of AES Energy.

Highlighting industry hopes for the take-up of battery storage, Tesla CEO Elon Musk visited the site, some 225km north of the state capital Adelaide, in July, hailing the battery as "just the beginning".

The state has yet to reveal how much it is paying Tesla.

Mr Weatherill came under fire last year after the entire state went black following a major storm, and raced to shore up the state's grid with a A$510 million ($S520.6m) plan, including ordering the big battery. - REUTERS

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