After One Year of Operation, Tesla’s Australian Mega Battery Is Doing Just Fine
Nadia Krieger posted on October 01, 2018 |
The Tesla battery was built alongside Hornsdale wind farm in Australia and is the largest Lithium ion battery in the world by a factor of 3. (Image Courtesy of Teslarati.)
The Tesla battery was built alongside Hornsdale wind farm in Australia and is the largest Lithium ion battery in the world by a factor of 3. (Image Courtesy of Teslarati.)

Tesla’s mega battery in southern Australia—the largest battery in the world—is already en route to make back 30 percent of its total cost by the time it reaches its first anniversary in November. Although it was known that the battery was doing well, new financial reports were released that finally confirm the numbers. The success of the battery is still remarkable, as the unusual birth of the project led some to believe that the giant battery would end up as a rushed novelty project.

The inception of the Hornsdale battery happened in March 2017 when Elon Musk made a bet that if the construction wasn’t completed in 100 days, its cost would be free. As Tesla is notorious for often not being on schedule with projects, many questioned whether Musk’s move was the real deal or just an ill-conceived publicity stunt.

Musk’s 100-day boast left Tesla investors sweating. (Image screenshot from Twitter.)
Musk’s 100-day boast left Tesla investors sweating. (Image screenshot from Twitter.)

Despite concerns, the battery was completed ahead of time and has been up and running alongside the Hornsdale wind farm for almost a year. Recent reports from Tesla’s partner Neoen—the French renewable energy company that owns the battery—reveal that after its first six months of operation, the battery made back $8.1 million out of the $66 million total construction cost. The report also projects that the battery will have made $20 million when November comes around. 

Now, Neoen wants to build another, smaller, 20MW/34MWh mega-battery, this time in the Australian province of Victoria. The proposed battery will not be as large as the Hornsdale plant, but still larger than any other Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery that has been constructed to date.

The success of the Hornsdale battery is largely due to its well-chosen location. Australia has long suffered from grid problems, with outages and high prices plaguing the area. Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar are highly inconsistent due to their dependency on weather conditions, this also makes them perfect candidates to be paired with the kind of quick, efficient energy storage that a Li-ion battery can offer. The backup power from a big enough Li-ion battery can help keep electricity prices down when the wind farm is unable to keep up with demand.

On the other hand, the Tesla battery’s speed and efficiency may be overkill for what the infrastructure is designed for. In March, Tesla claimed that a significant amount of energy was not getting compensated since the frequency control ancillary services that help stabilize the power supply are built for fossil fuel generators and take longer than the Li-ion battery to respond.

Although the Hornsdale success is getting the world excited about future prospects for the role of Li-ion batteries in renewable energy, some have suggested that this particular solution only works for the unique problems of the Australian grid.

“Now, this incredible use of the system is really specific to the Australian energy market, and there aren’t that many markets out there where it could be so valuable,” said Electrek.co, “but they can certainly adapt it at different scales and for different uses.”

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