A little over a year ago Southern Australia was in the dark. After intense weather led to widespread outages, energy security soon became a top concern. Some government agencies faulted flaws in sustainable energy while others placed blame on old-fashioned infrastructure. Times change. Southern Australia’s new lithium-ion battery, developed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, eliminates both infrastructure and sustainability issues. The 100 MW battery farm, the largest on the planet, is capable of powering 30,000 homes and was built in only 63 days. Musk told Australians that if the lithium-ion battery wasn’t completed within 100 days then they could have it for free. Australia might be paying but its energy crisis has, for the most part, been resolved.
The lithium-ion battery is located north of Adelaide, in close proximity to Neoen’s Hornesdale windfarm. The battery pulls energy from the windfarm and stores it for later use. Musk’s public statement confirms his belief that lithium-ion battery farms are proven to be sustainable sources of energy. He predicts they will be in use throughout the world, with the Australian battery acting as a model for future projects.
Tesla’s lithium-ion battery farm stores up to 100 MW. That power is available any time of day, any day of the year. And if the battery can’t take up any other charge, then the excess energy is siphoned into Australia’s vast National Energy Market.
Tesla powerpacks connect the battery to the windfarm’s output. When energy is pulled from the battery it flows into Australia’s National Energy Market. Australia’s NEM estimates that it’s energy network is composed of “40,000 km of transmission lines and cables.”
The agency administered regulatory tests prior to the announcement of the project’s completion. The tests determined that the battery farm is capable of pulling power from the Australian National Energy Market as well as transmitting energy. The tests also determined the battery’s ability to act as a generator.
The lithium-ion battery farm’s true test will occur when the region is hit by powerful weather and storms, as well as by intense summer heat. Musk anticipates that the lithium-ion battery will hold up to summer load demands and other peak times of year. He is confident that the battery farm is the solution to South Australia’s unpredictable power supply.
Future projects will likely test how well the lithium-ion battery farm concept can adapt to other settings. Unlike solar panel farms, that can take up large swaths of land, the lithium-ion battery farm occupies 10,000 square meters. This could make the concept relevant for places that do not have access to vast, open land. Sustainable energy from sources like rivers, waterfalls, or residential solar may require battery farms that take up a limited area. The Australian battery may be the model but it surely isn’t the only sustainable energy solution Elon Musk and Tesla have in mind for the future. And the next one might take less than 63 days to build.