The output and storage of South Australia’s big Tesla battery will increase by 50 per cent within weeks if the project’s final tests run smoothly.
The state government says the expansion at Jamestown, in the state’s mid north, will make an extra 50 megawatts of power available to the market.
Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the boost would further stabilise the state’s grid, which relies heavily on renewables.
“We’re making the biggest battery in the world 50 per cent bigger, but we’re also making it do more for consumers,” he said.
The minister said the expansion would allow massive amounts of energy to enter the grid almost instantaneously.
“To do that in large amounts very quickly is what we need to provide voltage support and frequency support so our grid stays stable.”
He said testing would not impact the grid’s functionality.
“This is really about testing the battery’s interface with the grid rather than testing the grid or generators or any other part,” he said.
The battery was built in 2017 under an agreement between Tesla, French renewables company Neoen and the former SA government.
Tesla boss Elon Musk flew to Adelaide to announce the battery’s construction with then-premier Jay Weatherill, after promising to build it in 100 days or build it for free following a Twitter exchange with Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes.
The arrangement was mocked by several federal ministers, including the newly-installed Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
But Mr Van Holst Pelekaan said the battery, at the Hornsdale Power Reserve, has delivered more than $150 million in savings in its first two years of operation.
“Upon successful completion of testing in the next few months, we expect these savings will continue to grow,” he said.
“The increase in storage power and capacity mean a faster response to disturbances such as network faults, so that within milliseconds the Hornsdale Power Reserve can help stabilise the grid.
“In demonstrating the benefits that batteries can provide, this will help inform the regulatory changes required to create new markets which attract new technologies to support renewable energy.”
The expansion project was announced late last year, when Neoen said it would take the battery’s output from 100 to 150 megawatts.
The South Australian government committed $15 million to the project, while the Australian Renewable Energy Agency contributed $8 million.
Expansion to help keep lights on
Neoen said the testing phase would ensure the expansion met “high performance standards”.
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said it would also help avoid situations like the statewide blackout of 2016.
“This is about making sure the voltage and frequency at which electricity is delivered to your power points is stable, so things in your house and the businesses that use the electricity don’t get burned, literally, by major changes,” Mr Wood said.
“Not only is this battery expanding its instantaneous capacity by half, on the other hand, it’s expanding its storage capacity to almost 200 megawatt hours.
“At certain times of the days and the year, that’s very valuable.”
Mr Wood said the learnings were not all technical.
“We’re learning not only technically how it works, but financially how it works so in the future the people making these investments will get an understanding of whether they can make enough money to make the investment worthwhile,” he said.
He said the battery’s financial model, which is tethered to a wind farm, had been a success.
“By combining a battery with a wind farm, when the price in the market is very low because there’s a lot of supply and not a lot of demand, rather than keeping the price very low what you could do is store some of the electricity for when the price is higher.”