Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk says the Tesla battery in South Australia will be dwarfed by a soon-to-be-announced facility of one gigawatt hour (1,000MWh).
Musk said the 1GWh installation would be announced within a few months. It would be eight times bigger than the current Tesla battery, the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery, which is rated at 100MW/129MWh.
“The utilities have really loved the battery pack. I feel confident that we will be able to announce a deal at the gigawatt hour scale within a matter of months,” Musk told a conference call following the release of the company’s March quarter results on Thursday morning (Australia time).
There was no indication of where the new Tesla battery would be, but Musk said the installation in South Australia, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve, had changed the perception of the electricity supply industry on what batteries can do.
“It has had a quite profound effect. South Australia took a chance and it worked out really well,” Musk said.
“It has performed far beyond expectations … it can respond far faster than any hydro carbon plant, and the value in grid stabilisation is much greater than a gas turbine plant.”
Musk compared the response time of the battery pack to the speed of acceleration in the company’s electric vehicles. “You have instant acceleration – the same rapid response is true of the battery pack,” he said.
Musk’s assessment follows praise from the Australian Energy Market Operator, which has lauded both its speed and accuracy, and noted how it has led to a lowering of costs by puncturing high prices created by the gas cartel that had previously dominated the market.
Indeed, many people think that the Tesla battery has changed the way people think about the market, including regulators, owners and operators.
Rule changes are now proposed to ensure that the multiple value streams of the batteries – not just in time shifting and arbitrage and back-up, but also its speed and accuracy in grid services, and offsetting network spending – are recognised by the market.
Other batteries are about to be completed near the Wattle Point wind farm, and at a network centre in Victoria, while a 30MW/11MWh battery storage system has just been installed in the Pilbara, to help supply Gina Rinehart’s iron ore mine.
The Tesla battery is already being followed by a string of new battery storage installations across Australia, including several by Tesla.
It is about to start construction of a 25MW/50MWh battery storage installation next to the Gannawarra solar farm in Victoria, which would be the biggest solar-battery combination in the world.
It will also build a 20MW/34MWh battery in the Bulgana Renewable Hub being put together by Neoen, its partner in Hornsdale, to ensure that a new greenhouse, the biggest in the country, can operate on 100 per cent renewable energy.
Tesla also said it was working on reducing the backlog on Tesla Powerwalls, the smaller 13.5kWh units destined for behind the meter use in households and businesses.
Many customers have become frustrated with the delays, which hit their peak as Tesla turned its focus on delivering the Hornsdale big battery within 100 days, and as it shipped units to help out after the hurricane in Puerto Rico destroyed the island’s grid.
“Our longer term strategy is to catch up with the Powerwall backlog,” said chief technology officer JB Straubel. “It’s too long. We know people are waiting too long.”
Tesla also said it was hoping to reduce the cobalt content of its batteries to near zero, to protect the units against the soaring price of the commodity, which is mostly supplied through the Democratic Republic of Congo, and often involves child labour.
Those prices are believed to be behind some of the price rises in batteries – both Tesla and Enphase have recently announced small increases, although declined to provide reasons. And they risk putting pressure on battery packs for its electric vehicles too.
The company says the cobalt content of its nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathode chemistry is already lower than next-generation cathodes that will be made by other cell producers, with a ratio of 8:1:1.
“We think we can get cobalt to almost nothing,” Musk said during the conference call.