World’s largest battery plant almost complete

Thursday October 12 2017

Elon Musk

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk. PHOTO | AFP 

By VICTOR KIPROP
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American automaker and energy storage firm Tesla is about 100 days away from completing the construction of the world’s largest battery plant in South Australia.

The 100-day countdown to the completion of the 129MWh wind-charged battery plant began on September 29, when a grid connection agreement for the project was signed by transmission company Electranet.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that the company was halfway done with building of the battery bank and installing the batteries being manufactured at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Nevada.

“To have that (construction) done in two months… You can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” Musk told a party he organised to mark the halfway point of the construction South Australia’s mid-North. “This is a great example to the rest of the world on what can be done.”

The mega plant grew out of a Twitter bet between Musk and Australian software entrepreneur Mike Cannon-brookes in March this year, when the Australian dared Musk to make good on Tesla’s pledge to deliver 100-300MWh of storage to power-cut prone South Australia in 100 days.

The Tesla boss responded in a tweet, "Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from the contract signature or it’s free. That serious for you?”

In July, Tesla defeated Zen Energy, Carnegie Clean Energy and 88 other bidders to win part of $103 million fund set up by the South Australian government for the development of the battery and other sources.

While the exact cost of the construction is unknown, Musk said failure to deliver on the promise would cost the firm “59 million or more”

Upon completion by December 2017, the 129MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve will be the largest battery in the world, three times as powerful as the current next biggest 30MW facility built by AES Energy Storage—also using Tesla batteries in Southern California.

“This system will be the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world and will provide enough power for more than 30,000 households, approximately equal to the amount of homes that lost power during the blackout period,” Tesla said in a statement in July.

The giant lithium-ion battery will serve as an emergency back-up power for South Australia which has been racked by power outages in recent months.

According to Reuters, some 1.7 million residents were without power for up to two weeks in September 2016, after “Violent fluctuations” from windfarms blacked out the entire South Australian State, wiping out an estimated $367 million.