Elon Musk's Giant Battery Set for Testing in the Australian Outback

Updated on
  • Power packs fully installed near wind farm north of Adelaide
  • South Australia says battery to enter regulatory testing phase

Tesla's Sexy Solar, Massive Batteries and Fast Cars

Billionaire Elon Musk’s giant battery being built in the Australian outback will be energized in coming days and begin testing, indicating Tesla Inc. is on track to meet a 100-day self-imposed deadline to install the system.

Tesla power packs have now been fully installed on a site near a wind farm north of Adelaide and will be tested to ensure the battery meets standards laid down by the energy market operator, the South Australia state government said in a statement Thursday.

"Congratulations to the Tesla crew and South Australian authorities who worked so hard to get this manufactured and installed in record time," Musk tweeted on Thursday.

The entrepreneur is building the system to help the state avert crippling electricity blackouts that have spurred a nationwide debate about security of energy supply in Australia. The futurist chief executive made a bet on Twitter in March that he could install a 100-megawatt storage facility within 100 days or it would be free, and the clock started ticking at the end of September when the contract was signed.

Musk’s battery system is designed to overcome one of the main obstacles to greater reliance on renewable power sources -- they can store up power produced while the wind blows or sun shines, and then release it steadily to the grid later when generation stalls.

"The world’s largest lithium ion battery will be an important part of our energy mix,” South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill said in the government statement. “It sends the clearest message that South Australia will be a leader in renewable energy with battery storage.”

Musk has high hopes for the wide-scale roll-out of solar and battery-based energy storage after acquiring SolarCity Corp. last year. Tesla sees the combination of those two clean energy technologies as key to its overall effort to accelerate the transition to renewables and wean the world off fossil fuels.

Read more: All about Elon Musk -- a QuickTake explainer

Though Palo Alto, California-based Tesla is best known for making electric cars, the company sells its lithium-ion batteries to utilities eager for cost-effective ways to integrate renewable sources of power like solar and wind into their electric grids. Tesla also markets a home battery called the Powerwall to residential consumers.

For Musk, delivering the battery ahead of deadline would back up an earlier win where Tesla delivered a large battery project in Southern California in 90 days to alleviate the risk of winter blackouts.

Tesla has missed almost every aggressive product milestone it set for itself in the past decade and its mass-market electric sedan has been hit by production delays.

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