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Musk praises SA’s “gumption” for building global example of energy future

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Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has praised the South Australian government for having the “gumption” to commission what will be the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage plant, and setting an example for the “rest of the world” of what can be done – indeed, what must be done – to support high renewable energy grids.muskSApresser

In comments at a press conference at the Adelaide Oval, Musk said the ground-breaking deal with the Weatherill government and French developer Neoen had provided the chance to show the world that heavy duty, large-scale utility battery system can be built and deliver the three-pronged effect of transforming the way renewable energy is distributed, stabilising South Australia’s high renewables grid, and pushing down the state’s power prices.

Musk said that the project – which was effectively three times bigger than the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery system – was not without risk, particularly in light of the US company’s promise to have the Jamestown plant up and running within 100 days, or do the job for free.

But he added that if “South Australia was up to the challenge, if South Australia is willing to take a big risk, then so are we.”

“Actually, I’m pretty darn impressed with South Australia,” Musk told reporters at the Friday afternoon news conference. “It takes a lot of gumption, so obviously, huge respect for that.

“We see this as something the world will look at as an example. It’s going to be an example to the rest of the world. But we need to deliver. And we want to do it in under 100 days.

“This is definitely the way of the future, and it’s worth other states (in Australia) taking a look at this.”


Musk’s comments will be welcomed by SA Premier Jay Weatherill and his energy minister, Tom Koutsantonis, both of whom have been heavily criticised by the federal government, the state opposition, and the conservative media, for their ambitious policy approach to renewable energy development.

The attacks reached their peak in February this year, after the state suffered rolling blackouts, affecting 40,000 people for up to 45 minutes.

Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg immediately blamed low wind output and the state’s “gamble” on renewables for the grid problems – although the country’s most efficient gas generator was sitting idle at the time in Adelaide – and labelled the incident “yet another example of Jay Weatherill’s failed experiment”.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and others soon joined in, including federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, who famously brandished a lump of coal during the following question time in Parliament.

Weatherill – who in March tore strips off Frydenberg for his government’s “bagging South Australia at every step” – told the Friday gathering that the state’s tender for grid-scale battery storage had “been an incredible journey”, culminating in the selection of a “superior bid” to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery.

“This (project) is about pushing down prices and also, opening up new possibilities for renewable energy… to be dispatchable – to provide firm, essentially baseload power to industry and business.  And it starts here in South Australia,” Weatherill said.

“We will have this in place by the beginning of summer.”

(Frydenberg was not invited to the tender announcement).

Musk added that the project, which he said would create a “huge initial input of jobs,” would also serve as a tourist attraction in the state.

“We’re going to make an effort to make it look good, it will have some value as a tourist spot for a while,” Musk said.

“It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid,” Musk said. “And it’s really quite necessary and needed (for high renewables grids).

“You have to buffer the power and store the power in the middle of the day in order to discharge it at dawn and at dusk and at night,” he said, adding, “it’s really not that complicated.”

“Just as you can power a satellite with solar and battery, you can power Earth with solar and battery,” Musk said. “Earth is a giant satellite.”  

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  • MaxG

    Bravo… and so it begins…

    • solarguy

      Yes and so it has and were all glad of that. I hope future contracts could be awarded to an Australian company, perhaps Redflow.

  • Ren Stimpy

    This calls for a celebration – anyone up for a new colour on the Live Generation widget?

    • SMcC

      Brown or maybe Black. I think those colours will be available soon…

      • solarguy

        Those colours are already taken. I suggest turquoise or hot pink as a stand out.

        • neroden

          Hmmm. Lithium brines are this funky bright turquoise color — I think that would be a very appropriate color choice.

    • WR

      Maybe. It might end up being ‘behind-the-meter’ at Hornsdale, and so be indistinguishable from the wind generators’ output.

      • solarguy

        You would still see what % of charge it has though. After all it would just be a fuel gauge.

    • solarguy

      Bring it on!

    • brucelee

      It would definitely be in Neoens interest and the interest of the industry as a whole to publish data and its affect on market pricing. Fingers crossed!

  • howardpatr

    It was not hard to predict the Abbott influenced responses from Frydenberg and Turnbull.

    Yes the Tesla ESS will seem expensive down the track but so did early cars that replaced the horse and cart. Abbott has so much trouble getting out of his own “dark age”.

    • MrMauricio

      “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5
      tons.”
      – Popular Mechanics, 1949
      “I think there is a world market for maybe five
      computers.”
      Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

  • Patrick Comerford

    (Frydenberg was not invited to the tender announcement).
    Jay Weatherill is the master politician. No one in the country comes close.

    • sunNwind

      Hats off to Weatherall, Musk and Neoen. Let it begin….Frydenberg and Turnbull will be left behind for their lack of both courage and moral fortitude.

      • solarguy

        “I’ll say,” hats off indeed! Jay Weatherall has to be the smartest pollie in the country, not only that, he has common sense and integrity. A very likable guy.

    • Joe

      Premier Jay you are the ‘Jewel’ in Australia’s RE space. Turnbull’s hapless and hopeless hand puppet, Joshie F, not being invited to the presser was hot to trot with another verbal assault bagging of SA and Premier Jay. Joshie F takes down SA’s history making battery build as too little to be of any good. Then at the same time bangs on about how great is Snowy 2.0 being Australia’s BIG Battery. The only problem is SA will have their battery built whilst Snowy 2.0 is…only a feasibility study. Even if it is given the go ahead it will be years before it begins to operate. In that meantime there will be more of ‘Elon’s Battery Parks’ installed and working all over the place…Snowy 2.0 just might now be dead.

  • Jack B

    I am beaming with pride with this announcement today, the South Australian government has shown fantastic leadership on the issue of clean energy and taken steps in the right direction for energy security, I have no doubt this has been a hard road to travel for the South Australian government as they are operating in a sea of lies and deceit from other governments including the Federal government but more importantly the energy industry that I believe has not been helpful and downright underhanded in how they have conducted themselves here in South Australia and some of the other states as well.
    well done to South Australia!
    With enormous respect to Elon Musk and the Tesla car, I would now like to see more choice for electric cars in South Australia and the rest of the country and the infrastructure to support Electric cars, many other places in the world has good choice and support but Australia is lagging behind by some years on this issue. I have $60,000 to spend but it’s just not enough for what is available on the market here in South Australia at the moment. Please this must change and it must change as soon as possible.

    • Geremida

      Join me Jack and get yourself in the queue to order a Tesla Model 3. Your $60K should do it. Tesla have said that the first Model 3 will roll off the production line today! The only problem is that you’ll have to wait until the end of 2018 or early 2019 for delivery, as the demand is just that high. But indeed a very proud day for SA. I’m stoked

      • Mike Dill

        I hope they put a supercharger station there at Hornsdale, if just for the advertising.

        • brucelee

          I feel like tesla might respond with heavy infrastructure investment (charging stations etc.) to show what the future energy system could be in SA.

  • Chris Fraser

    How could Mr Turncoat possibly steal thunder from this ? He’s probably racing off to another pumped-hydro site for a doorstop and a few photojournalists tagging along ….
    Well that’s the depth of his imagination really ….

    • Joe

      ..he sent his hand puppet Joshie F out to the media to try and poo poo the historic announcement from Elon and Premier Jay. Joshie F looked like a proper goose…again.

  • davidb98

    bloody good

    when the federal government are idiot neo-liberals driven by the wealthy 1%

    we need the states to lead

    this is one case where the US and Australia seem to be sensibly in step

  • DJR96

    Despite the federal politicians, things are indeed looking ok. SA-tick, Vic-tendering, NSW-energy minister gets it, Qld-ambitions (if only they could afford it).

    But the NEM still needs a major reform for everything to work together properly. And quite frankly the peak body, COAG energy ministers, AEMC, and AEMO gives me no confidence that they have a clue what to do yet. [They could start by giving me a call!]

    • solarguy

      As far as the AEMO goes Audrey is in charge now, she will make good things happen.

      • DJR96

        I sincerely hope so. But AEMO is only one (minor) part of the governance. She still has to deal with those “industry experts” (read fossil-fuellers). That will be very difficult.

  • Ray Miller

    So this one site providing Australia’s first Frequency Control Services (FACS) from a wind farm and the world biggest battery storage!
    The significance of this one project is massive, providing the management of the whole system is worked out, which is the next major challenge, with many leanings ahead. But with the project so far giving all the signs of being up to the challenge, which is more than can be said for the large swaths of the existing NEM players.

    Well done South Australia and the international leadership shown by Premier Jay Weatherall and his government!
    COAG meeting next week should be interesting? And the opportunity for COAG to sign off on Finkel’s report recommendations and maybe Musk can lend one of his rockets to put under the AEMC to get that 5 minute rule un-delayed and implemented in 2018.

    • David Hurburgh

      But how is the battery pack going to provide inertia ( spinning reserve) which is so vital to ensuring grid support ?

      • neroden

        Hee hee hee. (I assume you’re being sarcastic.)

        In case you weren’t, we all know here that batteries are better at stabilizing grid frequency and providing “inertia” than anything else. That’s just a fact. That’s why they’re being bought by utilities worldwide to locate at substations to stabilize the grid frequency and ride out short faults.

  • Brunel

    The price should be disclosed. This is a government contract after all.

    With the F1 race in Albert Park, we know that it costs us $60m/year.

    • BushAxe

      I think the cost will be published once the finance has been sorted out. Neoen said they’ve put their own money in at this stage and will seek to finance it later.

  • Ralph Buttigieg

    Yes, SA’s power system is being saved by a capitalist, billionaire, neo-liberal . Capitalism!