Musk gets connection deal for Tesla big battery, and then switches it on

The Tesla Powerpacks in place at the Hornsdale wind farm. Photo: Giles Parkinson

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk won’t likely have to build the Tesla big battery in South Australia for free – around half of it has already been put in place, and is already storing power from the neighbouring wind farm.

In a major event on Friday night at Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm, near Jamestown in the state’s mid-north, Musk announced that a connection agreement had been signed with ElectraNet and approved by the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Even though the agreement was only signed on Friday, half of the array (30MW/65MWh out of the total 100MW/129MWh)  is already in place (see photo above) and was providing power to the unveiling event.

“To have it done in two months,” Musk said, is “pretty amazing” – adding that it was quicker than a kitchen renovation. He said it was time to get rid of fossil fuels. “Talk is cheap, action is difficult,” he said. “This is not just talk, it is reality.”

The unveiling of what will for a time be the world’s biggest lithium ion battery storage array attracted about 500 or so politicians, including premier Jay Weatherill and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis, energy industry folk, media people and “Teslarati” – those with Tesla EVs or battery storage.

“This shows how much has been done in a incredibly short period of time,” Weatherill said.

“There were lots of people making jokes about South Australia and making fun of our our leadership in renewable energy. They are now laughing on the other side of their face, because South Australia is leading the world on renewable energy technologies.”

Koutsantonis was equally effusive: “Welcome to the 21st Century,” he said. And he was equally dismissive of the federal government and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, which only on Friday said the state would be unable to host an AFL grand final because it had unreliable power.

Musk had promised to build the Tesla big battery within 100 days of signing a connection agreement “or it’s free” after beating off 90 or so other competitors that bid for the S.A. government’s “big battery” tender.

However, that 100-day promise is notional anyway. The contract signed with the S.A. government is to deliver the battery array by December 1, the start of summer. AEMO is counting on it, along with demand management and other initiatives, to ensure there are no blackouts.

The 100MW/129MWh battery array will be used partially to “time shift” the delivery of wind power from Hornsdale, but most of it is dedicated to helping stabilise the grid and keeping the lights on in case of a major disruption like last year’s storm that led to the “system black.” (See this explainer).

“The interconnection agreement has been approved by AEMO and has just been signed this afternoon by Electranet,” Tesla said in a statement issued as Musk took to the stage, hours after he had outlined his visions for space travel to the moon, to Mars, and even between continents on Earth.

“Tesla and Neoen now have 100 days to complete the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world,” the company said.

“It will help solve power outages, reduce intermittencies and manage summertime peak load to support the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure, providing enough power for more than 30,000 homes—approximately equal to the amount of homes that lost power during the blackout period last year.”

Tesla and Neoen said the battery array will help solve power outages, reduce intermittencies and manage summertime peak load to support the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure.

“These Powerpacks were manufactured at the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, U.S.A.

“Our Gigafactory will ultimately have more battery production capacity than the rest of the world combined, helping Tesla to achieve high economies of scale, leading to the lowest cost-per-kilowatt in the world, allowing us to deliver our products globally.”

Listen to our Energy Insiders podcast, with special guest Franck Woitiez, the head of Neoen Australia, which actually owns and will operate the South Australia big battery.




51 responses to “Musk gets connection deal for Tesla big battery, and then switches it on”

  1. Andrew Woodroffe Avatar
    Andrew Woodroffe

    Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk! – well done Tesla and Elon!

    What a terrific illustration of how fast things can move when you don’t have to install power lines or gas piping.

    1. Ian Cleland Avatar

      Just maybe Australia could take Musk’s example on delivery and apply it to other area of Australian economy. Maybe we should get Tesla to install our NBN

      1. Alastair Leith Avatar
        Alastair Leith

        Maybe too late, NBN has been hacked to pieces, a generational opportunity for a social leveler sacrificed for the sake of Murdoch and co.

        1. Ian Cleland Avatar

          Yes, we are not very bright here in Australia. Just another sellout

  2. Kym Avatar

    What colour will the battery widget be?
    Or will the battery be “behind the wind turbine”?

    1. Michael Murray Avatar
      Michael Murray

      Kind of related question so I”m going to sneak it in as a reply.

      Does anyone know how the NEM watch widget deals with the interconnector between SA and Vic ? Can I tell if SA is drawing power from Vic and what form of generation that power had used ?

      1. BushAxe Avatar

        I suspect for now the battery is behind the meter, there will probably be some changes to AREMI soon as Hornsdale stage 3 should be online soon too. The NEM widget only shows production within each state you need to go to the AEMO dashboard to see realtime interconnector flows.

      2. Rod Avatar

        There does seem to be a disconnect between the widget data and the NEM data. It would be nice the see the flows on the widget

    2. Paul McArdle Avatar

      Hi Kym
      (sorry, thought I had replied earlier)
      We’re currently waiting to see the structure of the data that will be available for the battery – remember that it can both drain and inject power into the grid, and that it has 2 separate contracts in place (hence maybe 4 DUIDs). When we know more clearly we will be able to understand how to upgrade the NEMwatch Fuel Type widget.

  3. Michael Murray Avatar
    Michael Murray

    Hang on. False start ! Who let him start before the whistle was blown ? He should have to disconnect all those power packs and put them back in the boxes and start again.

    1. nakedChimp Avatar

      Quick little bastards 😉

    2. Rod Avatar

      With that sort of money on the line he would be mad not to have made a start while awaiting approvals.

  4. Tatarize Avatar

    It’s a lot of good PR for him, when really if you just asked for those batteries without the song and dance you wouldn’t have been able to skip the line. The wait list for a home battery pack to do your solar is a few years at least. It’s great technology but you couldn’t do this in a few dozen places all at one time. Though he might be able to do that in a couple years with a few more factories.

    1. leslie graham Avatar
      leslie graham

      I have spent the last twenty minutes looking for information that backs up your claim that you would have to wait ‘a few years at least’ and can’t find a single thing,
      Can you?
      Everything I’ve read suggests that the installation rate is expected to treble again in 2017 – same as it did last year.

      1. Tatarize Avatar

        They launched the whole solar batter stuff with the Tesla Powerwall stuff a few years back. The current order page for them notes: “Powerwall orders placed today will be installed in early 2018.” The wait lists reported by others is longer and for the powerwall 2. If you ordered this for yourself, you would have to wait much longer than 90 days. And they only have the one gigafactory which produces more batteries than any other factory in the world and it’s not really enough.

        With Musk personally involved the batteries produced got sent right off rather than processing existing orders first. The demand for this stuff far outstrips the current production amounts and will for a while. You won’t be able to buy this from a place and have them out the next week to install it for a couple years yet.

        1. BarleySinger Avatar

          Beside which, you can’t pit a PowerWall on your house in SA, unless you go
          off-grid entirely or have 3-phase. The PoweWall

          All new “small generator”
          installs in SA (as of April 2017) are limited to 5Kw total output (not
          counting any export limiting features). You are no longer allowed to overload your panels for higher output at dawn and dusk.

          The smallest PowerWall (all by itself) has 7Kw peak output. You
          will never get that past SA Power Networks under the current

          1. Tatarize Avatar

            I am unaware of any specific laws and rules in a specific state in the country of Australia. But, I am totally weirded out by that, those current regulations sound fricking insane. I obviously side with your expertise on the matter, but seriously it sounds crazy the PowerWall would soak up that extra power and you would not need to pump power back to the grid at all. Much less beyond the legal limits in an area. They wouldn’t thus be output but part of a closed system that would no longer need to use the grid as a fakesy

          2. Alastair Leith Avatar
            Alastair Leith

            Well that needs some work by the Weatherill Government then…

  5. George Michaelson Avatar
    George Michaelson

    If press can do one thing, it can help prevent people believing this battery stack by intent is meant to supply power to the entire S.A. grid by itself. Most of the letters pages in the News Ltd press attack it on the basis its 100s of Ms instead of Gs because of a mistaken belief about its role. Its not about entire nets-worth of power consumption, its about shaving price peaks, and business continuity (as I see it)

    1. neroden Avatar

      It’s about stabilization and balancing. To put it simply, the power is *generated* by solar and wind — but this doesn’t necessarily give you the power exactly *when* you want it, so the batteries are used to time-shift it around from hour to hour.

    2. Paul McArdle Avatar

      Hi George

      Back when the announcement was made I posted these questions:

      Still no closer to having anyone (officially) really answer these questions. My inference is that those who are in a position to do so see it as in their interests to be deliberately vague – hence get more “bang for buck” in a marketing sense, rather than curtailing people’s escalating expectations that it will cure all ills.

      Of course, that expanded gloss only lasts until the real tests emerge, and then we see what it was really designed to do, and that it wasn’t.


      1. George Michaelson Avatar
        George Michaelson

        They’re good questions. I think they deserve answers, if only because setting realistic expectations can improve everybody’s outlook. If its claimed to be a time machine and a cure for cancer, there will be a lot of disappointed people.

        If it has visible impact on bid behaviour, that would be worth it. If it joins FCAS, that would be worth it. If it extends the visible supply window for associated variable power sources &c &c. These are all worth it, if understood to be the limit of its goals.

        1. Rod Avatar

          The problem is your average muppet who frequents the Murdoch rags either doesn’t understand the value of these various services or just blindly believes what Dolt tells them.

        2. Mark Roest Avatar
          Mark Roest

          re “if understood to be the limit of its goals” — there is a better way to phrase it; something on the order of:
          It will prevent the _______s from bidding up prices to the extent of AU$ per year, while only costing AU$________, so it will pay for itself on that count within __ years, and then prevent incumbent suppliers from bidding up prices by that much again, every year, for another 20 years, for free. If it joins FCAS, it will make _____________ possible, and the value of that will be _____________. [The following part may require a study, if it’s not already been done:] Each year, during times of peak demand after the sun has set, a battery system of ___ MW and ___ MWh can displace ___ barrels/tonnes of fossil fuels, deliver ____MWh of clean electricity from solar or wind sources, prevent ___ tons of CO2 emissions, and earn AU$___, compared to AU$___ that a fossil fuel plant that did not engage in gaming the Australian public and damaging its economy, but simply earned a fair, competitive (compared to other fossil fuel sources) price would have cost.

          Since that’s a lot of reading for a lot of people these days, it would be good to make a graphic of it, and make that a series, updated every week or month, with, perhaps, a graph that shows how much the total value of all batteries installed in each of the state grides (and offgrid) has contributed to the Australian citizen’s financial well-being. Along with that, there could be a report that shows reductions in cardiovascular and lung disease from reductions in combustion.
          In other words, ensure that anyone who looks at it can understand it, make it ubiquitously available on the web and on some billboards, and find ways, including gamification, to ensure that most people do look at it to learn from it. Find ways to get people to encourage other people to check it out, and to recommend it as trustworthy.
          That becomes Archimedes’ lever, with which you as an industry and as a movement can move both the market and the political world in the direction they need to go in.

    3. Ken Fabian Avatar
      Ken Fabian

      It also means gas doesn’t have to be fired up all the time to be available when needed at short notice – this installation will allow gas to be turned off when not needed and real emissions reductions as well as greater system reliability will more closely follow the growth of wind and solar. Add the solar thermal with molten salt at Pt Augusta and it will be SA that helps Australia meet the international obligations (if we do) – the ones that are not kowtowing to unreasonable UN demands but represent commitments to enduring climate stability for the sake of Australia’s long term future.

      1. BarleySinger Avatar

        > gas doesn’t have to be fired up all the time

        Yes. This also means that the greed driven people at the gas power generation plants, can’t throw the state into blackout, due to their being utter idiots at their jobs.

        Maybe next they can (maybe) start replacing the towers that carry our high tension power wires in SA … over to, you know, something that doesn’t look like it was welded out of scrap metal in the backyard over at “Dodgy-and-Dodgy Power Towers Ltd”.

        1. Alastair Leith Avatar
          Alastair Leith

          The footings looked pretty miniscule in the photos of towers ripped in one piece out of the ground. More about the spec than the build I suspect.

  6. Bj On Roids Avatar
    Bj On Roids

    It’s a great job by Elon, and by Giles bringing energy truth, and explanations to Australians. Nice to see ethics, among all the smokescreens from the mainstream media.

  7. Ray Miller Avatar
    Ray Miller

    That’s service. The new standard in grid connection we can all expect now?

  8. Patrick Comerford Avatar
    Patrick Comerford

    Listening to Elon brings a smile to my face. Listening to Turnbull makes me want to cry.

  9. Greg Hudson Avatar
    Greg Hudson

    Nice to see the result of the ‘Machine Gun’ at the Gigafactory. Now lets see a few thousand PowerWall 2’s arrive that quickly !

    1. JohnM Avatar

      You may have to wait a bit, -all the batteries just went into Hornsdale.

    2. Chris Jones Avatar
      Chris Jones

      There is a priority redirect of Tesla Powerwall Batteries to Puerto Rico due to the shredding of the grid there by hurricane Maria. This will no doubt cause further delays to deliveries of Powerwalls in Australia.

  10. Ian Cleland Avatar

    As much as I think what Tesla/Musk has done is great.

    We have not addressed the long term consequences of the end of the life of the batteries. Is it landfill or are we going to recycle. All products produce waste. We have to have cradle to cradle products and industries globally. It is the opportunity of new industries coming from having a clean safe planet for future generations

    1. GregS Avatar

      Agreed – we definitely need to have recycling clauses

    2. Charles Avatar

      They are fully recyclable, and Tesla’s gigafactory will have recycling facilities built in. You don’t need to make rules about it when it’s going to be cheaper for the manufacturer to do this rather than continue to source raw materials.

    3. JohnM Avatar

      These batteries, besides being fully recyclable, have an excellent management system to mitigate degradation. Like Tesla car batteries and Powerwalls, they are never fully charged/discharged so extending their maximum output out to some 20 years. After that, they may slowly degrade over the next 50 years or so, -but it will be a very different battery world by then, and the job done.
      Even coal fired power stations degrade over time. Liddell is now running at about half it’s initial capacity, to avoid major catastrophe.

      1. BarleySinger Avatar

        The PowerWall doesn’t last 20+ years. No Lithium Ion battery does. They die in about 7 years. Li-ion is not a good battery tech.

        Also the PowerWall series are illegal in SA anyway, unless of course you go off-grid entirely or have 3-phase. Otherwise all new “small generator” installs in SA (as of April 2017) are limited to 5Kw total output (not counting any export limiting features) and this includes your PV + battery. The smallest PowerWall (by itself) has 7Kw peak output. You will never get that past SA Power Networks under the current regulations.

        1. Miles Harding Avatar
          Miles Harding

          You need to watch this video and then consider that Jeff Dahn’s lab is working with Tesla. I feel there is every likelihood that Li-ion bateries being made in next couple of years will last 15 years or more.


          1. Alastair Leith Avatar
            Alastair Leith

            @12:25 “How much storage to [power Nova Scotia for one day?” Pumped Hydro for the heavy lifting. Biofuels for the winter wind droughts which can see days at a time in many locations around the world of low PV output due to heavy cloud and no CST and wind generation.

        2. Peter Campbell Avatar
          Peter Campbell

          I have Li batteries, admittedly LiFePO4 which is not exactly the same chemistry, the cheapest chinese made ones available in 2008. They have been and continue to power my car and continue to work just fine. The car is used most days and recharged to full. Their capacity has declined from 90Ah to 70Ah. They have had and continue to have a very hard life. They bake in the car when it is parked in the sun and go to zero degrees in an open sided carport in Canberra. The battery is small by commercial EV standards, so, when I feel like showing off, they are asked to deliver twice their rated continuous current as I take off from the lights. All in all they are astonishing for what they can do almost a decade old. They give me confidence in much newer, higher quality, currently-made cells.

        3. Alastair Leith Avatar
          Alastair Leith

          Tell SENEC that, they warrenty for two full cycles a day for ten years. Their IP is all around the power management electronics and software and you can put any lithium ion batteries in their boxes, they ship with Panasonic sourced cells I think.

        4. Mike Shackleton Avatar
          Mike Shackleton

          The Powerwall 2 is warranted to have ~70% of its capacity remaining after 10 years, with unlimited cycles if just charged using solar power.

          Batteries don’t just reach their nominal life span and just stop working.

          That means after 10 years you might find you need some more capacity to regain what you have lost. You won’t throw out your old unit, you’ll just tack a new one (at greatly reduced cost by that time) up on the wall next to it.

          As to you assertion on limitation of output, you can install as much as you like in terms of solar panels and batteries behind your meter. It’s just that you aren’t allowed to export to the grid above the 5kW limit.

    4. Alastair Leith Avatar
      Alastair Leith

      1. Recondition
      2. Reuse (in less demanding roles when they age i.e. EV —> stationary energy storage)
      3. Recycle, possibly energy intensive but Shai Agassi used to say the batteries they were using for Better Place were 99% recyclable (I think).

      4. Wait for the next generation of batteries that use less valuable resources/elements to take over.
      5. Wait longer again for organic (sugars) chemistry batteries to take over.

  11. Kevin Gleeson Avatar
    Kevin Gleeson

    Makes a mockery of the Turnbull Gov.fix in the Snowy wont be ready in six years ..Go Jay Weatherall

    1. Alastair Leith Avatar
      Alastair Leith

      Snowy 1.0 was considered an economic white elephant by some economists, and was always more about diverting water from the catchment Snowy to Murray irrigation system for agricultural use than it was about power generation. How Snowy 2.0 can stack up against smaller turkey nest distributed PHES and chemical batteries for smaller loads and periods, and FCAS I have no idea… I don’t think Malcolm does either, just wanted something bigger than all the innovation/agile action Jay Weatherill has been getting.

  12. RobSa Avatar

    “beating off 90 or so other competitors” sounds very healthy.


    1. Tatarize Avatar

      Sounds like he bribed them to go down.

  13. Mark Roest Avatar
    Mark Roest

    This immediately reminded me of the CEO of Sunpower when he predicted that solar will roll up and over fossil fuels, [like a tank].

  14. MaxG Avatar

    If I had Musk’s financial power I would embark on the same train: prove all these idiot politicians in power wrong!

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