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Two Years on and Elon Musk’s South Australian Battery Farm Is Going Well

The world's largest lithium-ion battery was famously built in under 100 days. It's since saved South Australia over $116 million.
March 2, 2020, 11:15pm
Elon Musk and Hornsdale Power Reserve
Image via Wikimedia user Duncan.Hull, CC licence 4.0 (L) and Flickr user David Clarke, CC licence 2.0 (R)

A lot can happen in two years.

At the end of 2017, Elon Musk was still being seen as one of the most exciting, if not eccentric, members of the Silicon Valley elite.

Here in Australia, he was particularly popular for delivering a 100MW battery storage farm in the South Australian outback. His company, Tesla Inc, finished construction of the battery storage farm—officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve and unofficially known as “Tesla’s big battery”—in less than 100 days, defying all naysayers both in Australia and abroad who didn’t think it would work.

It's now 2020 and Musk’s public persona has been damaged by his social media blunders, his feuds with child rescue workers, and his random foray into electronic dance music. But despite Elon's public slide from grace, Tesla’s big battery is doing exactly what he said it would. Bloomberg Green reports that the energy storage system has successfully responded to three major system outages, restoring stability to the network and lowering the costs of running the grid in a state that was previously plagued by blackouts.

These blackouts had become particularly bad in late-2016 and early-2017, prompting Musk to offer his services. By more effectively storing the energy generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar, the Horsedale Power Reserve effectively eliminates the risk of blackouts, while at the same time offering a means to transition from fossil fuels. And it appears to be working.

In addition to overcoming multiple major system outages, engineering consultant Aurecon claimed that Hornsdale reduced network costs by about $116 million AUD in 2019. Garth Heron, Australian head of development for Neoen, the company that owns Hornsdale, said these savings would be passed on to businesses and households throughout SA.

“Not only has the Hornsdale Power Reserve identified how batteries can physically help the grid, it has also showed how they can make money along the way,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Ali Asghar pointed out. “More importantly, it has boosted investor confidence in the storage market by showing developers how revenues from different power based services can be stacked to build a business case for storage in Australia.”

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