Experts React to Tesla’s Plan to Bring World’s Largest Lithium-Ion Battery to SA

  Last updated August 4, 2017 at 4:49 pm

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The South Australian state government announced that Tesla and Neoen will partner to deliver the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery in South Australia in 2017. 

Today there was an a buzz in Adelaide with early rumour of Tesla CEO Elon Musk being in town for the energy announcement from Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia. It was confirmed later when Elon Musk himself joined the Premier for a press conference at the Adelaide Oval. We were so excited about the entrepreneur being in our city that we went on a little hunt to find him – scroll to the bottom of this article to see a bit of our adventure and see if we were successful!

The world’s largest lithium ion battery will be installed in South Australia under an agreement between electric car and renewable energy company Tesla, French renewable company Neoen and the State Government, SA Premier Jay Weatherill has announced. This comes after several energy blackouts in South Australia during 2016 and continued pressure to solve the state’s energy crisis.







Read these reactions from experts around Australia.

Professor Hugh Saddler is Honorary Associate Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

“The battery installation will make an important contribution to increasing the security and reliability of  electricity supply in South Australia.  It should also help to keep a lid on wholesale electricity prices, by making it more difficult for gas generators in the state  to drive prices up to extreme levels by what is called strategic re-bidding behaviour. Frequent, very short lived extreme price spikes are a major cause of the super high average wholesale prices, for which all South Australian electricity consumers are now paying.

The project is indirectly underwritten by electricity consumers in the ACT, who are paying for all the output of the Hornsdale windfarm, as part of the ACT’s move to 100% renewably sourced electricity by 2020.  In that sense, it represents a partnership between the governments of South Australia and the ACT.”

Dr Geoff James is Research Principal in the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney

“The Tesla 100 MW battery is of world significance both because of its size and its impact. The urgent need to keep South Australia’s grid frequency stable was demonstrated by the September blackout. The Tesla battery is an important part of the solution and is available quickly enough to provide support during the coming summer.

Co–locating the battery with a wind farm highlights another key characteristic of battery energy storage: its value is being able to do multiple things at once, and to do them quickly. The Tesla battery farm, like a modern Stonehenge aligned with the surrounding turbines, will shift wind energy production to make it more dispatchable and therefore more profitable.  At the same time, its high power capacity will be available in quick bursts to keep frequency in the right range. In just the same way, batteries at residential and commercial premises can support both the owner and the grid, and it won’t be very long before South Australia can aggregate another 100 MW of battery capacity in this way.”

David Dawson is Economics Leader for Victoria / South Australia at Arup

“Further integration of renewables into the Australian national electricity mix (NEM) will require the deployment of both large-scale and distributed electricity storage. In particular, continued connection of wind and solar photovoltaic farms at grid scale greater than around 100MW will require addition of electricity storage technologies of comparable size to stabilise the intermittency of generation resulting from these renewable technologies.

The most potent application of storage technology to help stabilise the grid of the future will see the deployment of battery technologies (eg. Li-ion, flow) providing fast frequency response over short time intervals in the order of seconds to minutes, alongside pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) technologies, which can respond within minutes and deliver significant power output over periods up to between six to eight hours, once battery technologies tail off delivery and need re-charging.

The combination of fast-response high-cost Li-ion battery technology with hour-long lower-cost PHES technology will be a potent combination which will allow the Australian electricity market operator (AEMO) and ElectraNET to better manage the stability and reliability of the South Australian grid.

It’s a combination of different storage technologies which will help integrate more renewables into the Australian grid.”

Conflict of interest statement: Arup is working with Consortium members, EnergyAustralia and Melbourne Energy Institute of the University of Melbourne, on a seawater PHES project, under joint funding with ARENA.  

Professor Peter Murphy is David Klingberg Chair in Energy and Advanced Manufacturing at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute

“It is fabulous news for the state of SA because the Tesla battery is exactly the type of technology we need to complement our existing renewable energy generating capacity.

This is indeed an insight into the future of energy.

Having an exemplar of this technology in SA may enable and foster local innovation, research and ultimately manufacturing of advanced technologies such as these by industry in SA.”

Ian Lowe is Emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University, Qld and former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Cost-effective storage of electrical energy is the only problem holding us back from getting all of our power from wind and solar. This project is a significant innovation to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale storage. It will not, by itself, enable South Australia to have reliable energy just from wind and solar, but it is an important step forward.”

Dr Ariel Liebman is Deputy Director of the Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI) at Monash University

“Today’s announcement about the Neoen and Tesla investment in a 100MW/129MWh battery adjacent to the Hornsdale wind-farm in South Australia is groundbreaking and clearly foreshadows the shape of the Australian energy future. I welcome this exciting announcement which will be remembered as the first large scale proof-of-concept on the National Energy Market transformation path.

However, we shouldn’t get too complacent because there are still significant challenges in turning this kind of activity into business-as-usual. We still don’t have a National Planning Framework, as pointed out by last month’s Finkel Review. We need a new paradigm in system planning, where we are able to make efficient investment decisions in a nationally coordinated fashion over at least a 20-30 year horizon.

These are decisions regarding where we should build batteries, versus off-river pumped hydro storage, as well as where and how much additional transmission capacity we should build. This requires an expansion of AEMO/AER’s RIT-T and SENE transmission cost-benefit assessment processes to include cross-state investment that will take place over the next 20-30 years, as we will be connecting unprecedented quantities of new wind and solar farms often far from existing grid locations.

Failing to take such a national approach will likely result in billions of dollars of stranded assets as different technologies unexpectedly emerge as competitive at various locations at different points in the future. The current NEM market design cannot efficiently incentivise investment over the required horizons.

We are working on the analysis and design of such a framework at MEMSI at Monash University and I’m looking forward to modelling the impacts of this announcement and supporting Australia’s enhanced planning and policy making needs.”

Professor Sankar Bhattacharya is Acting Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University

“This is a substantial development in the deployment of battery technology; its operation will shed light on the techno-economics and identify opportunities for improvements as the batteries are scaled up in the near future.”

Casey and Kelly, editors at Australia’s Science Channel

Okay, we’re not exactly energy experts but we took a little lunchtime stroll down to Adelaide Oval where the announcement was made today to see if we could spot Elon Musk. We did not. But we look forward to the battery plans!







Expert comments gathered by the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC).

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About the Author

Kelly Wong
Online producer at Australia's Science Channel. I have a background in immunology, food blogging, volunteering, and social media. I'm passionate about creating communities on social media and getting them excited about science. I enjoy good food and I am on an eternal mission to find the best ice cream. Find me on Twitter @kellyyyllek

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Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


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