Musk’s $50m Christmas Present

Elon Musk Announces the Building of the Jamestown Tesla Battery
Elon Musk announces the building of the Jamestown Tesla battery | Source: TechAU

Billionaire power player Elon Musk’s $50 million gamble has paid off with the completion of the world’s largest battery storage system to date in less than 100 days at Jamestown in the Mid-North of South Australia.

Australian billionaire software developer Mike Cannon-Brookes made a $50 million bet with Musk back in March that the giant Tesla 100MW battery could not be built within 100 days and Musk took him on…. and won, delivering vital support to South Australia’s power grid.

It is an impressive Christmas present for global renewable energy and e-mobility icon Musk, while the battery is a particularly useful festive gift to the people of South Australia, who face the possibility of an unstable electricity supply in the sweltering summer months.

The Tesla battery at Jamestown, switched on in early December, will be used to store electricity generated by the nearby, French-built, 99-turbine Neoen wind farm at Hornsdale, a string of wind turbines stretching for 8km located 24km north of Jamestown, in Mid-North South Australia.

Lithium-Ion Battery Facility at Jamestown, South Australia
Lithium-ion battery facility at Jamestown in South Australia. | Source: Tesla

South Australia is seen as a world leader in renewable energy, according to Neoen deputy chief executive officer Romain Desrousseaux.

Mr Desrousseaux said renewable energy was the future and South Australia was at the forefront of new developments in the field, adding that Neoen will reach its target in 2018 of 1GW of renewable energy generated in Australia, two years ahead of its 2020 deadline.

Most of Neoen’s planned $1 billion investment in renewable energy in Australia has so far been in South Australia.

Mr Desrousseaux said the planned future projects would be reliant on the outcome of ongoing political debate on the use of renewable energy over fossil fuels.

Betting on the future

Elon Musk Speaks at the TED Conference in Vancouver Canada

The $50 million bet between billionaire Australian entrepreneur and software developer Mike Cannon-Brookes and Elon Musk was sealed via Twitter exchanges over a few hours and evolved as follows:

6.20am, March 10, 2017

Mike Cannon-Brookes @mikecannonbrookes
“How serious are you about this bet? If I can make the $ happen (and politics?), can you guarantee the 100MW in 100 days?”

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

12.46am, March 10, 2017

Mike Cannon-Brookes @mikecannonbrookes
“@elonmusk legend! You’re on mate. Give me 7 days to try sort out politics and funding. DM me a quote for approx 100MW cost – mates rates!

5.42am, July 7, 2017

Elon Musk @elonmusk
“This will be the highest power battery system in the world by a factor of 3. Australia rocks!!”

Weathering the storm

In September 2016, a severe storm caused major damage to the South Australian electricity grid, causing a state-wide blackout which left 1.7 million people without power, some for up to two weeks.

The power blackout prompted the state government to urgently seek viable options to stabilise the grid, including seeking Expressions of  Interest to build battery storage which attracted responses from manufacturers including LG Chem, AES,  Kokam, Zen Energy, Carnegie Clean Energy and AGL Energy.

French renewable company Neoen and global energy giant Tesla were awarded the contract to build the giant lithium-ion battery, with South Australian premier Jay Weatherill announcing the deal with the statement:

Battery storage is the future of our national energy market, and the eyes of the world will be following our leadership in this space.

Tesla’s Jamestown battery is currently the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, some 60 per cent bigger than any other lithium-ion battery energy storage system on Earth.

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The world’s largest installation previously was an 80 megawatt-hour substation at Mira Loma in Ontario, California, in the United States built by Edison and Tesla.

The 100MW Jamestown battery, paired with Neoen’s wind farm, will provide 129 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to power more than 30,000 homes, says Tesla.

The battery will be used to load-balance the state’s power supply and provide emergency back-up power in the event of a blackout.

Business analyst Forbes, estimated construction of the Jamestown battery would cost up to $A240 million, Tesla battery division put the cost at around $A66 million, with the final bill expected to come in at around $A100 million.

Tesla Powerpack Installation
Tesla Powerpack installation. | Source: Cleantechnica

Renewables investment

There is more than $A8 billion of renewable energy projects in the pipeline for South Australia, with the potential to create more than 4510 jobs and generate a massive 4848MW of electricity.

Major developments planned for the state include:

  • SolarReserve’s $A650 million Aurora Solar Energy Project at Port Augusta, which includes solar thermal generation and storage,
  • Reach Solar Management Co’s $A400 million Bungala Solar Power Project at Bungala,
  • Energy Pacific Vic’s $350 million Carmodys Hill Wind Farm, at Carmodys Hill near Georgetown,
  • Senvision’s (formerly REpower) $A1500 million Ceres Wind Farm, 20km southwest of Ardrossan,
  • HWF 3’s $A250 million Hornsdale Wind Farm – Stage 3, 15km north of Jamestown,
  • Energy Pacific Vic’s $A240 million Keyneton Wind Farm at Keyneton,
  • Lyon Solar’s $A350 million, PV-tracking Kingfisher Solar Storage facility at Roxby Downs,
  • Lincoln Gap Wind Farm’s $A450 million Lincoln Gap Wind Farm at Lincoln Gap,
  • DP Energy Australia’s $A680 million Renewable Energy Park at Port Augusta,
  • Solarstore’s $A700 million solar thermal and storage facility at Port Augusta,
  • Lyon Solar’s $A1000 million PV-tracking and storage facility at Morgan, in the Riverland,
  • Energy Australia’s $A200 million Spencer Gulf Pumped Storage Hydro facility on Spencer Gulf,
  • Equis’ $A200 million PV solar panel facility at Tailem Bend,
  • Adani’s $A200 million PV solar panel facility at Whyalla,
  • Willogoleche Power’s $A250 million wind farm at Willogoleche Hill, 5km from Hallett,
  • Infigen Energy’s $A850 million Woakwine Wind Farm near Tantanoola, and
  • Kallis Family Trust’s $A100 million straw-based fuelled steam power facility near Ardrossan.

Turning up the heat

Backgrounding the planned infrastructure investment, the recently released Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Summer Readiness Report indicates a higher likelihood of heatwaves in Australia this summer.

The report said the Australian states of South Australia and Victoria had the highest likelihood of a greater than normal number of hot days, and a risk of longer (at least five-day) heatwaves.

Despite the new Tesla battery and the state government’s predicted diesel generated electrical back-up of 276MW, the AEMO report found the risk of not having enough power during summer remained high in South Australia. comment

Vincent Ross

Vincent Ross has been a professional journalist for more than 40 years,
working in newspapers, public relations, lifestyle magazines and digital
media, both as an editor and copywriter, and as a freelance travel writer
and photographer. Vincent, based in Adelaide, South Australia, is an
honorary member of the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
(MEAA). He has a keen interest in permaculture, e-mobility and renewable
energy, with particular focus on eco-responsible travel, culture and lifestyle.