By Sonali Paul
HORNSDALE, Australia (Reuters) – One year after the state of South Australia suffered a major blackout, the clock has started ticking for Tesla Inc to finish building the world’s biggest battery to help keep the lights on in Australia’s most wind-dependent state.
Tesla won a bid in July to build a 129 megawatt hour (MWh) battery and the state is counting on it to be ready by the start of the southern summer in December when electricity demand begins to peak.
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk vowed to install it within 100 days of signing a grid connection agreement or give it to the state for free. The grid agreement was signed on Friday, triggering the 100-day countdown, Tesla said.
At an event highlighting the construction progress on the battery, which is already half complete, Musk once again spoke of the future he sees for renewable energy and batteries.
“This is just the beginning. What this serves as is a great example of what can be done,” Musk said at the event, which was powered entirely by battery packs.
Musk was speaking from the construction site of the battery, which is being built at a wind farm operated by France’s Neoen that is located about 225 km (141 miles) from the South Australian capital of Adelaide and will supply power to the lithium-ion storage cells.
Last year’s state-wide blackout was blamed by opponents of renewable energy on the state’s rush to embrace wind and solar, and fuelled a backlash that has split Australia’s conservative federal government and led to renewed calls to support coal-fired power.
South Australia hopes the Tesla battery will forestall further blackouts, but Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison says it is just a “Hollywood solution” that is not solving the bigger problem of how to supply power when the wind isn’t blowing.
“The batteries are on track to be operational by December 1,” South Australia Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis told Reuters.
Analysts have estimated the battery should cost around…