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Can giant Tesla batteries solve South Australia's energy woes?

March 10, 2017 —As the United States looks back on an unusually warm winter, Australia is reeling from what climate scientists have dubbed “the angry summer.” A total of 205 temperature records were broken Down Under in a 90-day period.

The sweltering heat couldn’t come at a worse time for the state of South Australia, often referred to as S.A. The state’s Port Augusta power plant shut down last May, taking with it 520 megawatt-hours of generating capacity. The plant’s owners said they couldn’t compete with subsidized renewable energy.

But sun and wind power have proven too fickle to meet the state’s energy demands. As a result, SA’s overtaxed power grid has blacked out repeatedly in recent months, prices for customers have spiked, and policymakers are struggling to find a way out.


The idea was first floated by Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s energy products vice president. While visiting a power substation near Melbourne earlier this week, Mr. Rive boasted that the company could install the 100 to 300 megawatt-hours’ worth of storage capacity that South Australia needs within 100 days.

While Rive wasn’t the first to propose building more storage, Tesla’s high profile drew a response. “How serious are you about this bet?” Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes asked Mr. Musk via Twitter. “If I can make the $ happen (and politics), can you guarantee the 100 MWH in 100 days?”

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” Musk replied. “That serious enough for you?”

To which Mr. Cannon-Brookes answered, “You’re on mate.”


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