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Elon Musk volunteers to sort out South Australia power blackouts

10 March 2017

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of electric car giant Tesla, has thrown down a challenge to the South Australian and federal governments, saying he can solve the state’s energy problems within 100 days – or he’ll deliver the 100 megawatt hours (MWh) battery storage system for free. Repeated blackouts in South Australia since September last year have sparked a political row in the country.

Elon Musk - Image: Tesla
Elon Musk - Image: Tesla

The federal government blames the failures on the use of renewable technologies. Grid scale battery storage could help to even out price spikes, prevent blackouts and improve reliability across the network.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) recently approved a $450,000 grant to EnergyAustralia to investigate a pumped hydro energy storage project in the Spencer Gulf. That project has a capacity to produce about 100 MWh with six to eight hours of storage.

Musk said he could build a 100 MWh battery storage farm within 100 days or provide the system free of charge. On March 9, Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s vice-president for energy products, told the Australian Financial Review that the company could install up to 300 MWh of battery storage that would be required to prevent the power shortages.

Rive, Musk’s cousin who co-founded with him the solar energy outfit SolarCity, had said Tesla’s battery technology could address the power shortfall from the Hazelwood power plant closure in Victoria, as well as SA’s blackouts.

Thanks to stepped-up production out of Tesla’s new Gigafactory in Nevada, Musk said it could be achieved within 100 days and that if this deadline was not achieved the company would provide the equipment for free.

Tesla recently completed an installation of an 80MWh grid-scale battery farm in southern California within just 90 days, which cost $100m.

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