POWER: SA Premier Jay Weatherill tours the site during the launch of Tesla's 100 megawatt lithium-ion battery on December 1.
POWER: SA Premier Jay Weatherill tours the site during the launch of Tesla's 100 megawatt lithium-ion battery on December 1. DAVID MARIUZ

Tesla's giant battery outpaces Gladstone Power Station

GLADSTONE Power Station is making news across the world - but probably not in the way it would have preferred.

The 1,680MW coal-fired plant was outpaced by tech billionaire Elon Musk's giant lithium-ion battery when Victoria's Loy Yang A3 unit failed early on December 14.

While Gladstone's number 1 unit was contracted to provide backup power - and did so four seconds later - the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia beat it to the punch by injecting 7.3MW into the national electricity grid just 140 milliseconds after Loy Yang began to trip, according to data from the Australian Energy Market Operator compiled by energy analyst Dylan McConnell.

The speed at which the Tesla-made battery kicked in shocked national energy operators, according to the South Australian Government.

But Gladstone Power Station acting general manager Nigel Warrington said it had to be remembered that Gladstone was capable of generating 16 times as much power as Hornsdale.

"The total output of the Hornsdale battery storage is 70-100MW, whereas Gladstone generates up to 1,680MW, or 16 times more than the battery storage," Mr Warrington said.

"Hornsdale could not, for example, support the Boyne aluminium smelter with that level of output."

 

WORLD'S BIGGEST: The Hornsdale Power Reserve was launched on December 1.
WORLD'S BIGGEST: The Hornsdale Power Reserve was launched on December 1.

While the Hornsdale Power Reserve isn't designed to provide large-scale, base load power - but rather to kick in quickly to stabilise the energy grid - the point is an important one.

It means the success of Mr Musk's $50 million project - built as a result of a bet he made with the South Australian Government on Twitter - is unlikely to spell the end of Gladstone's role as a contingency provider of backup power any time soon.

Even Romain Desrousseaux, the deputy chief executive of French renewables company Neoen which operates the Hornsdale battery site, believes it is too early to talk about a 100 per cent renewable energy mix - a sign plants like Gladstone will still have a significant role to play for some time to come.

"You need to be able to bring peaking capacity and firming capacity," Mr Desrousseaux told the Financial Review.

 

TWITTER BET: Tesla founder Elon Musk.
TWITTER BET: Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Mr Warrington said Gladstone was recognised as one of the most responsive coal-fired power stations in Australia in terms of its ramp rate - or its ability to scale up and down quickly.

"We don't see the move to renewables as an 'us and them' argument, it is about working hand in hand and last week was a good example of that," he said.

NRG would not confirm whether Gladstone Power Station's number 1 unit - the same unit contracted to provide back-up on the night of the Loy Yang failure - had itself tripped on Tuesday.

"There are no current issues at Gladstone and in fact all six units are operating at high load," Mr Warrington said yesterday.

 

FOUR SECONDS: Gladstone Power Station.
FOUR SECONDS: Gladstone Power Station. Mike Richards GLA130215NRGP


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