In 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his company’s plan to solve one of the biggest problems facing renewable energy — storage. Tesla Energy was created to produce large-scale lithium-ion batteries that can store energy generated by wind or solar for use during less windy and less sunny (or off-peak) times. It makes energy distribution more efficient and ultimately makes the whole renewable energy enterprise more cost efficient (provided the batteries are durable enough, which is a whole other story).
— Jay Weatherill (@JayWeatherill) July 7, 2017
This week, Musk revealed that he’s going to be making yet another lithium-ion battery for energy storage — this one will just be a bit bigger than usual. On what appears to be a bet, Tesla will work with renewable energy company Neoen to build the largest lithium-ion battery installation ever in South Australia, one that will be 60 percent larger than anything else like it in the world. With over 100 MW of capacity and 129 megawatt-hours of energy generation, the battery will be big enough to provide supplemental power to the entire state of South Australia.
The deal came about partly as a result of persistent blackouts in the state because of an energy shortfall. Musk boasted that he could fix the problem in 100 days, which prompted Australian entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes to challenge Musk to make good. Musk claimed he’d do it in 100 days or do it for free, and now the race is on.
Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 10, 2017
The battery installation will receive its power from the nearby Hornsdale wind farm. Energy generated by wind will be used to charge up the battery continuously, which will then distribute that power to South Australian homes and businesses. If Tesla is successful, it’ll mark a big step forward for renewable energy generation.
The question is whether or not Tesla can meet the deadline, which is not something Tesla is known for. Musk has been caught out many times for making too-ambitious guarantees like this, something that has affected their mass market Model 3 sedan. After news came out that Model 3 production in 2017 would fall far below what Musk promised last year, Tesla’s stock took a significant tumble. Considering that a battery shortfall was the main reason for the production delays, it will be very challenging for the company to build the biggest one ever before the end of the year.