World's biggest lithium-ion battery plugs into Australia's grid

The world's biggest lithium-ion battery started feeding power into South Australia's state grid late yesterday.

Elon Musk promised to build the battery within 100 days or it would be free

South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill walks around the compound housing the Hornsdale Power Reserve, featuring the world's largest lithium ion battery made by Tesla, during the official launch near the South Australian town of Jamestown, in Australia, December 1, 2017. (David Gray/Reuters)

The world's biggest lithium-ion battery has plugged into an Australian state grid, an official said Friday, easily delivering on Tesla Inc. chief executive Elon Musk's 100-day guarantee.

Musk promised to build the 100-megawatt battery within 100 days of the contracts being signed at the end of September or hand it over to the South Australia state government for free.

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill announced Friday the battery began dispatching power into the state grid on Thursday afternoon, providing 70 megawatts as temperatures rose above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

"South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7," Weatherill said.

The official launch came a little over 60 days after the deal was signed. But crucially, it came on the first day of the Australian summer — the season when power usage soars due to air conditioning use.

Tesla says the battery has the capacity to power 30,000 homes for up to an hour in the event of a severe blackout, but is more likely to be called into action to boost supply during peak demand periods.

The battery power packs are installed near the Outback town of Jamestown, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) north of the state capital Adelaide. They store energy generated by the neighbouring Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by French renewable energy company Neoen, to bring added reliability and stability to the state grid.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill poses for a photograph with workers during the official launch of the Hornsdale Power Reserve. Weatherill announced Friday the battery began dispatching power into the state grid on Thursday afternoon, providing 70 megawatts as temperatures rose above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). (David Gray/Reuters)

Tesla partnered with Neoen to build the battery, which is more than three times larger than the previous record-holder at Mira Loma, California.

Blackouts last year

South Australia, which relies heavily on solar and wind-generated energy, has been scrambling to find a way to bolster its fragile power grid since the entire state suffered a blackout during a storm last year. Further blackouts plagued the state over the next few months.

The battery farm is part of a 550 million Australian dollar ($536 million Cdn) plan announced in March by Weatherill to make the state independent of the nation's power grid. The cost of the battery has not been made public.

The Australian grid operator has warned of potential shortages of gas-fired electricity across southeast Australia by late next year. The shortage is looming as Australia is expected to soon overtake Qatar as the world's biggest exporter of liquid natural gas. Australia is also a major exporter of coal, which fires much of its electricity generation and makes the country one of the world's worst greenhouse gas polluters on a per capita basis.