Elon Musk has given the state of South Australia an offer it may find difficulty refusing. Ever since South Australia went heavily into wind power it has experienced periodic blackouts and #Power Outages, especially during peak energy demand periods during the summer months. The reason seems to be that no one thought about what happens when the winds are calm. Musk, ever vigilant for a chance to make money and drum up some publicity has offered to build a 100 megawatt hours storage battery farm in 100 days from the signing of the contract or he will do it for free. The cost if he can do it within a 100 days will be $25 million according to CNN.
Why South Australia would go all in on wind without a backup system is something of a headscratcher. Texas has built heavily on wind power, but also has plenty of natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants to take up the slack if the winds become calm around the giant wind farms in West Texas.
Musk’s solution is to provide a battery storage system that can be recharged when demand is low and the winds are going strong that can be released into the grid when the winds are calm and demand is peaking. His gigafactory in Nevada has started producing batteries, primarily for his electric Tesla automobiles, but enough production capacity exists for markets like South Australia that are now starting to understand one of the big drawbacks of renewable energy. Sure it doesn’t belch carbon into the atmosphere but it is not altogether reliable. Hence the battery backup storage system.
Summer is almost over down under and with it heat related power demands. But the government of South Australia had better think very seriously on taking Musk up on his offer the sooner the better. 100 days would get the battery system up and running just in time for the next Australian summer. The alternative would be to restart some of those old fossil fuel plants to provide backup power, even though such a move would tend to defeat the purpose of making South Australia’s power system carbon free. #Elon Musk