South Australia Gets Solar
Operational Mega-Lithium Powerpack, Jamestown, South Australia (credit: Tesla)
An electrical power demonstration in Australia was a pivotal point in renewable energy from solar and wind power racing forward. The resulted signaled the start of a transition in power generation. Tesla won a bet as well.
Australia, blessed as one of the sunniest places on Earth, has been a leader in promoting residential and commercial solar power. However, some regions of the country have experienced supply and electricity distribution problems during peak demand periods. South Australia experienced power 'brownouts' when parts of the state "went dark" as it did a few years ago. Into this situation stepped Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, who approached the State's prime minister and offered the State a bet. If Tesla wasn't able to complete construction of a large lithium storage battery within 100 days of signing a contract, South Australia could keep the giant battery for free. The agreement was signed, construction began, and South Australia switched on Tesla's Powerpack facility with days to spare. The mega-battery began suppling megawatts to the State's grid from electricity stored in the solar and wind powered facility.
As might be expected for a nation that loves placing bets on everything, Tesla's project was closely watched by the Aussie press. News organizations started saying 'we're watching history in the making' when the Powerpak became operational. The project caught worldwide attention considering the potential for renewable energy to reduce dependence on coal-fired generation in many other countries.
The opportunity for solar and wind to be major players in power production has made leaps into the future. Solar power is now cheaper than installing new coal-fired generators. The transition to renewables is underway in earnest and new and more powerful batteries are leading the way. WHB