Musk’s Outback Success Points to Bright Future for Battery Storage
A year after Elon Musk rolled out what was then the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery to aid South Australia’s blackout-prone power grid, more projects are set to follow in its footsteps at home and abroad.
The Hornsdale storage facility — the result of Musk’s successful wager that he could build and get it up and running within 100 days — has helped the state stabilize the grid, avoid outages and lower costs. Its success is a boost to other plants commissioned around the world, including a larger one in South Korea.
The battery system is designed to overcome one of the main obstacles to renewable energy taking a bigger role globally: reliability falters when the wind stops blowing or the sun goes down. Batteries store up power and then release it steadily to the grid when generation stalls.
“It’s regulating the heartbeat of the national electricity market,” Garth Heron, battery owner Neoen SA’s head of development for Australia, told a press briefing in Sydney to mark the plant’s one-year anniversary.
The storage industry is increasingly important in places like South Australia, which has less access to traditional fossil-fuel sources like coal and gas. Hornsdale has performed an important function in providing frequency control services and its “speed and laser precision in response to system events has been encouraging,” the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said in an emailed response to questions.
The battery responded within 100 milliseconds to inject power and stabilize the grid after a lightning strike in August on the Queensland-to-New South Wales inter-connector took it out of service, according to industry consultant Aurecon Group Pty. Pre-battery, frequency control response times could be up to six seconds, Neoen said.