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Musk says Tesla’s next big battery will be eight times bigger

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Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk says the Tesla big battery in South Australia will be dwarfed by a soon-to-be-announced facility of one gigawatt hour (1,000MWh).

Musk said the 1GWh installation would be announced within a few months. It would be eight times bigger than the current Tesla big battery, the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery, which is rated at 100MW/129MWh.

“The utilities have really loved the battery pack. I feel confident that we will be able to announce a deal at the gigawatt hour scale within a matter of months,” Musk told a conference call following the release of the company’s March quarter results on Thursday morning (Australia time).

There was no indication of where the new Tesla big battery would be, but Musk said the installation in South Australia, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, had changed the perception of the electricity supply industry on what batteries can do.

“It has had a quite profound effect. South Australia took a chance and it worked out really well,” Musk said.

“It has performed far beyond expectations … it can respond far faster than any hydro carbon plant, and the value in grid stabilisation is much greater than a gas turbine plant.”

Musk compared the response time of the battery pack to the speed of acceleration in the company’s electric vehicles. “You have instant acceleration – the same rapid response is true of the battery pack,” he said.

Musk’s assessment follows praise from the Australian Energy Market Operator, which has lauded both its speed and accuracy, and noted how it has led to a lowering of costs by puncturing high prices created by the gas cartel that had previously dominated the market.

Indeed, many people think that the Tesla big battery has changed the way people think about the market, including regulators, owners and operators.

Rule changes are now proposed to ensure that the multiple value streams of the batteries – not just in time shifting and arbitrage and back-up, but also its speed and accuracy in grid services, and offsetting network spending – are recognised by the market.

Hornsdale Tesla big battery

The Tesla big battery is already being followed by a string of new battery storage installations across Australia, including several by Tesla.

It is about to start construction of a 25MW/50MWh battery storage installation next to the Gannawarra solar farm in Victoria, which would be the biggest solar-battery combination in the world.

It will also build a 20MW/34MWh battery in the Bulgana Renewable Hub being put together by Neoen, its partner in Hornsdale, to ensure that a new greenhouse, the biggest in the country, can operate on 100 per cent renewable energy.

Other batteries are about to be completed near the Wattle Point wind farm, and at a network centre in Victoria, while a 30MW/11MWh battery storage system has just been installed in the Pilbara, to help supply Gina Rinehart’s iron ore mine.

Tesla also said it was working on reducing the backlog on Tesla Powerwalls, the smaller 13.5kWh units destined for behind the meter use in households and businesses.

Many customers have become frustrated with the delays, which hit their peak as Tesla turned its focus on delivering the Hornsdale big battery within 100 days, and as it shipped units to help out after the hurricane in Puerto Rico destroyed the island’s grid.

“Our longer term strategy is to catch up with the Powerwall backlog,” said chief technology officer JB Straubel. “It’s too long. We know people are waiting too long.”

Tesla also said it was hoping to reduce the cobalt content of its batteries to near zero, to protect the units against the soaring price of the commodity, which is mostly supplied through the Democratic Republic of Congo, and often involves child labour.

Those prices are believed to be behind some of the price rises in batteries – both Tesla and Enphase have recently announced small increases, although declined to provide reasons. And they risk putting pressure on battery packs for its electric vehicles too.

The company says the cobalt content of its nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathode chemistry is already lower than next-generation cathodes that will be made by other cell producers, with a ratio of 8:1:1.

“We think we can get cobalt to almost nothing,” Musk said during the conference call.

 

   

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  • Tim Buckley

    The virtuous cycle of technology innovation, economies of scale, renewable technology deflation and hence faster than anticipated uptake. Great to see, thanks Giles for keeping us well informed.

  • Ray Miller

    Jay’s and Elon’s foresight will be recorded in history, not like our environment minister and PM.

    • Joe

      The ‘COALition Climate Criminals’ will be remembered by us all long after they have left office. And when prosecution actions finally get rolling The ‘COALition Cilmate Criminals’ will have their place in recorded history as well.

      • I have called them the Feral Coalignition Government for a long while now. Full of fossil fools!!! 🙁

        • Joe

          Nice name label for them…dangerous Ferals at that.

    • solarguy

      Ain’t that for bloody sure!

  • Chris Drongers

    I am a bit slow – the introduction of a market for grid ancillary services that batteries do so much better than thermal power plants is not an additive game, it is zero sum. Whatever is paid to batteries for FCAS is subtracted from or charged to the income of slower reacting generators. This penalty will be even more if/when regulators move to higher distribution grid power quality (voltage, reactive power) to protect end user equipment.

    • Chris Fraser

      Why not make lumbering thermal power plants responsible for their own home-made generation disturbances ? How big would the batteries needed to level the load have to be – 50MW ? They could simply give in to the technology and get rid of FCAS markets completely.

    • Mike Shackleton

      As I understand, because of the settlement period we have, the big battery hasn’t been getting paid for a lot of these FCAS services as it switches on and off inside the 6 minute period. It kicks in within milliseconds but turns off once the spinning units have woken up and are providing FCAS.

  • Alastair Leith

    There was no indication of where the new Tesla big battery would be, but Musk said the installation in South Australia, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, had changed the perception of the electricity supply industry on what batteries can do.

    “It has had a quite profound effect. South Australia took a chance and it worked out really well,” Musk said.

    “It has performed far beyond expectations … it can respond far faster
    than any hydro carbon plant, and the value in grid stabilisation is
    much greater than a gas turbine plant.”

    It’s as if engineers take a punt every time they build a slightly different bridge, wow who would have thought that stood up, even in strong winds and rain? It’s as if the engineers used calculations and engineering or something next level like that… how could they even begin to imagine? How much are the CEOs, CFOs CTOs of our gentailers and the Czars of our energy market authorities paid again?

    • Mike Shackleton

      Engineers are inherently conservative. So, you deliver something that you know is “technically” capable of a lot of things, but only focus on the things you have high confidence it can achieve. Then you work at pushing the limits to reach what is technically possible. Also remember, this is the largest installation of its type, it was uncharted territory that Tesla was working in.

      • Alexander Hromas

        Its not we have have had uniterruptable power supplies for at least 25 years and I have overseen the installation of several with capacities of up to 1MW. in a single unit. These UPS installations were and still are used to keep computer rooms running if there is a mains failure even momentary. They can respond so fast that the computer systems do not notice the interruption. The Tesla battery is simply a scaled up version of a UPS with a much bigger battery. The systems engineering problem was not how to build the battery but how it would interact with the system, not a trivial problem especially when you are the first duck in the pond. Full marks for the ETSA engineers for their work and the CEO’s for approving it

  • Ian

    As gas prices continue to increase, both mining AND petroleum companies are seriously looking at renewables to reduce costs and/or increase output. Not consuming fuel gas reduces the amount of exploration, drilling etc required to get gas to market. Likewise, if you can sell the gas on the international market at a higher price then why burn it in local generators at a lower efficiency (33% v’s 60%) and lower price. For mining it is purely a numbers game v’s other fuels.

  • solarguy

    Ah yes, the things that SOLAR DREAMS ARE MADE OF!

  • Hettie

    A question to the brains trust.
    Has anyone yet worked out a ratio of wind: solar: PHES: battery that would give optimum 24/365 power for, say a regional town of 10,000 people?
    I can envision a spreadsheet with a range of variables such as hourly demand, wind times and speeds, solar hours each month, longest periods of calm and overcast…..
    I am aware that WA is doing great things for remote settlements with renewables, but they still rely on backup generators. And the WA terrain is often not suitable for PHES, but still, it’s a question worth asking in a country where did disances are vast and stand alone could be worthwhile.