Elon Musk’s New Battery Farm in Australia


  • Elon Musk and Neoen are collaborating on the supersized sequel to Tesla’s existing battery farm in South Australia.
  • The Hornsdale Power Reserve has been a huge success, and the new battery is multiple times larger.
  • The renewable future will include a variety of sources to cover all times of day and conditions.

    After the undeniable success of Elon Musk’s battery farm, the Tesla head honcho and the government of Victoria, Australia are following it up by building a new, much larger, 300-megawatt battery farm.

    You like Elon Musk. So do we. Let’s nerd out over his creations together.

    As a refresher, in 2016, South Australia experienced a near total blackout after a crazy storm brought 80,000 lightning strikes and at least two tornadoes to the area. When a politician blamed the blackouts on the push for renewable energy, Musk and Tesla bet they could power the area with the company’s PowerPacks within 100 days—and did it in 60.

    In just two years, the Neoen-owned Hornsdale Power Reserve—literally a facility full of PowerPacks that receives and stores energy from nearby wind and solar farms—has worked as advertised, saving South Australia more than $100 million in network costs. By storing power up to its capacity of 100 MW, this “battery” can absorb brief blips in the grid surrounding it, reducing outages for residents and easing the burden on businesses or facilities that lose money, product, and more during those outages.

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    Victorian Big Battery Megapack will be built about 40 miles outside Melbourne, and it’s double even the upgraded size of the existing Hornsdale Power Reserve. Like Hornsdale before, the Victorian Big Battery Megapack will become the largest facility of its kind in the world.

    The battery farm itself is a storage system. South Australia has a robust infrastructure of renewables like solar energy farms, and both the state and Musk view storage as a key part of making renewables an everyday competitor. That’s because solar is subject to fluctuations that greatly vary its energy output, which makes it difficult to predict as well as price for consumers. The renewable future is likely made of a patchwork of sources that work best in different environments, times of day, and conditions.


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    If that sounds fussy or tedious, think about the food your family eats every day. It’s a mix of animals that evolved in different climates, grains from around the world, fruits and vegetables that vary by season, and even preserved and fermented products that are only edible because of how they’re prepared. We can put together a similar “menu” of renewables, and battery farms like Victorian Big Battery Megapack help to make that selection more “shelf stable.”

    Neoen is again footing the bill for the Megapack. It’s likely that having increased stability and delivery lets Neoen make a better sales pitch for the renewables it builds for and sells around the world, making this a win-win situation.

    When the battery is fully charged, it can provide power back into its intended South Australia grid for about an hour and a half. On a typical peak summer day, the hot and dry state has abundant sunshine and equally high energy needs. South Australia has led the way globally toward an all-renewable grid, including a recent milestone where the grid was powered only by solar for an entire hour.

    Strangely, too much solar at once can also be bad for the grid as well as energy prices. Evening out the highs by redistributing them to the lows is something that, Australian officials say, will stabilize the grid and keep uptime high. They’ve also passed a law allowing the local power distributor to “switch off” household solar if the grid is unstable due to excess.

    Here in the U.S., we think of peak hours as a bad thing—when residents are encouraged to switch off high-usage appliances and conserve energy to prevent brownouts or even blackouts. But in Australia, the abundance of solar energy means people are encouraged to do their most energy intensive things in the peak of the afternoon. With increased solar storage in the Megapack, perhaps all hours can be dishwasher hours again.

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