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Jay Weatherill and the Giant Battery
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is full of confidence about the world’s biggest battery that Elon Musk’s Tesla intends to build in the outback town of Jamestown.

The Premier visited Jamestown on Sunday and dismissed criticism of the project by acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce said the battery wasn’t big enough to make any difference, adding that its impact would be the equivalent to adding a grain of sugar to a teaspoon.

The Premier commented that the acting Prime Minister was being negative and opportunistic.

“Don’t say anything if you can’t say something positive,” the Premier told reporters.

“I think anybody who was actually looking at this objectively would say it was a great idea.”

Mr Weatherill said the battery project would also create jobs in the local area in tourism and other sectors and, now that storage was a viable option, it would help unlock other renewable energy projects.

The South Australian government is conscious of the limitations of the battery.

Its $550 million energy plan incorporates gas fired power stations as back up in case the renewables cannot supply despatchable power in times of high demand.

In fact that is the situation currently with a wind drought affecting South Australia.

“There’s lots of moving parts to our plan.

What you’re seeing is it being implemented and it’s very exciting,” Mr Weatherill said.

“You’ll see a direct benefit in terms of the price of electricity. [But] We need every element of our six-point plan, they all work together.”

The battery will be built near Jamestown, in SA’s mid-north and paired to a wind farm operated by French utility company Neoen.

Director of operations Laurent Francisei said he was confident the project would be delivered on time and be operating this summer thanks to the support of government and the local community.

“The 100 days (commitment) has become famous,” he said.

Once in service the battery will be used not only to provide power at times of blackouts or shortages; it will also be employed all-year round to supply cheaper electricity when prices spike.

‘Forbes Magazine’ takes the view that the Tesla offer to supply a battery is just a publicity stunt.

It makes the point that what is required to stabilise the SA grid is a battery capable of supplying 100 megawatts of power for three hours.

The battery offered by Tesla is only capable of supplying power for a little over an hour.

Lyndon Rive, the head of Tesla’s energy products division confirmed that the company could not supply a 300 MW/hour battery at this time despite the fact that, when he was in Australia following the blackout in South Australia, he had said that it could.

‘Forbes’ says no one knows how much the battery will cost.

However it indicates that it is likely to be expensive.

“As the initial flurry of excitement generated by Musk’s offer began to dissipate, serious people attempted to determine exactly what Musk and Rive had promised to do and to estimate how much the project would cost.”

On Twitter, Musk had made an attractive, but guardedly qualified price estimate of $250/kw-hour for installations larger than 100 MW/hour.

He quickly admitted that price does not include shipping, installation, taxes or tariffs but failed to mention that the price probably does not include site specific engineering, site appropriate cooling systems or site specific grid connection infrastructure.

Adequate cooling systems are important for high power, energy-dense battery installations.

High discharge rates generate enough heat to damage the battery and its supporting electronics.

Fires and explosions are more frequent occurrences than desired and are a high risk for improperly cooled or controlled systems.

With those additional installation investments, an estimate of $500-$600 per kilowatt hour of storage is probably closer to reality.

An installed 100 MW – 300 MW/hr lithium-ion power station would cost somewhere between US$150 million and $180 million (between $200 million and A$240 million).”

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