Energy

Australia Turned On The World’s Biggest Battery, But Will It Fix Their Energy Crisis?

Australian officials happily announced on Friday the world’s largest lithium-ion battery came online in the outback to help stave off the region’s ongoing energy crisis.

The Tesla-built battery, which came online Friday, will be used to store and dispatch South Australia’s wind power at times when the wind isn’t blowing. South Australia gets about 40 percent of its electricity from wind power, but is also in the midst of an energy crisis.

Tesla’s big 129 megawatt hour battery is part of a $390 million plan to revamp South Australia’s grid and make green energy more feasible, but the government hasn’t actually disclosed how much it will cost.

“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7,” South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said in a statement.

“The South Australian Government should be congratulated for ensuring their energy supply is not only sustainable, but will help solve power shortages, reduce variability, and manage summertime peak load,” echoed Tesla.

Tesla founder Elon Musk told Weatherill in March he could alleviate South Australia’s energy problems with a battery. Reuters reported at the time the battery could cost $25 million, but Aussie officials haven’t said how much they paid.

“This is history in the making,” Weatherill said.

It may be an historic day, but what may be more historic is how Australia is a wealthy country that’s in the midst of a severe energy crisis. Tesla’s battery may provide some relief, but it may not be enough.

South Australia has dealt with blackouts and brownouts in recent years, which experts say is largely to do with fluctuating electricity generation from subsidized wind and solar farms. Fluctuating wind energy was blamed for the major blackout in 2016.

Subsidies have also eaten into the earnings of aging coal plants in the region, two of which have closed in recent years. Closing coal plants have put pressure on electricity supplies, which often fall short in the blistering summer heat.

But the Aussie energy crisis isn’t limited to South Australia. The country also faces a shortage of natural gas, despite being a major exporter of the fuel.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said earlier this year his government would take steps to restrict exports if necessary. Turnbull blamed years of left-wing Labor government policies favoring unreliable green energy.

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