A year ago today, Tesla’s big battery in South Australia began dispatching power to the state’s grid, one day ahead of schedule. By most accounts, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery has been a remarkable success. But there are some concerns that have so far escaped scrutiny. The big battery (or the Hornsdale Power Reserve, to use its official name) was born of a Twitter wager between entrepreneurs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Elon Musk, with the latter offering to build a functioning battery in “100 days or it’s free”. Musk succeeded, and so too has the battery in smoothing the daily operation of South Australia’s energy grid and helping to avert blackouts. The battery has also been a financial success. It earned A$23.8 million in the first half of 2018, by selling stored electricity and other grid-stabilising services. These successes have spurred further big battery uptake in Australia, while the global industry is forecast to attract US$620 billion in investments by 2040. It’s clear that big batteries will play a big role in our energy future. But not every aspect of Tesla’s big battery earns a big tick. The battery’s own credentials aren’t particularly “green”, and by making people feel good […]

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