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.
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.
— Jay Weatherill (@JayWeatherill) July 7, 2017
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.”
This will be the highest power battery system in the world by a factor of 3. Australia rocks!! https://t.co/c1DD7xtC90
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2017
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.”