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Elon Musk builds world’s largest battery in Australia

Tesla, makers of electric vehicles and everything else, have switched on the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Australia today. The switch on comes after Tesla founder Elon Musk made a wager on whether he could have the battery operational within 100 days. If he didn’t meet the deadline, he said he would give the battery away for free. The 100-megawatt (MW) Powerpack system forms part of a much wider debate in Australia about the viability of renewable energy in the country. The battery has the capacity to supply 30,000 homes for one hour, making it three times more powerful than any other battery. “South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy,” state premier Jay Weatherill said at the opening of the colossal battery, which is connected to a large wind farm. The state government claimed it would help “stabilize the South Australian grid” following a series of power cuts in the state, including one large profile power cut in 2016. Australia as a whole relies of fossil fuels for two-thirds of its energy, but South Australia now gets more than 40 percent of its electricity from wind energy. Opponents of the state’s renewables push have branded the battery a “Hollywood solution”.

Renewables vs. Reliability

The debate on renewables vs. reliability has been burning for some time now in Australia. South Australia had committed to getting half of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, a target that they met this year. But the take up of renewable energy has come at the cost of reliability, as South Australia has been plagued by power cuts. When a 2016 storm took much of the state’s electricity supply offline, Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the state government’s renewable energy policy was ideological and idiotic. “If you want it to replace coal-fired power with lots of renewables, it would dawn on you, you would think, with a moment’s thought, that the sun doesn’t shine all the time,” he said. In March 2017, the state government announced plans to create a A$150 million fund to support renewable energy projects. Tesla was chosen as the best of 90 competitive proposals and the project was started at Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by a French company. “The completion of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in record time shows that a sustainable, effective energy solution is possible,” Tesla said in a statement at the battery’s official launch on Friday. Praveen Kathpal, vice president of AES Energy and chairman of the U.S. Energy Storage Association said South Australia’s commitment to turn to energy storage was an important step for the rest of the industry. “We think that’s what’s really going to accelerate the uptake of energy storage in Australia,” he said.

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