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Elon Musk wants to build the largest lithium-ion battery ever

SYDNEY — Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Friday promised to build the world's largest lithium-ion battery to store renewable energy in Australia within 100 days or provide it for free.

The Tesla boss said he would construct a 129-megawatt battery to store energy generated by French utility group Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm, which is currently under construction, as part of a project to shore up the electricity network in the state of South Australia.

Speaking in Adelaide alongside the state's leader, Premier Jay Weatherill, Musk told reporters the project was "not a minor foray into the frontier."

"There is certainly some risk, because this will be largest battery installation in the world by a significant margin ... the next biggest battery in the world is 30 megawatts," Musk said.

The 129-megawatt-hour battery, to be installed by the end of the year, will be large enough to power 30,000 houses and could provide emergency back-up power if an energy shortfall is predicted.

The state government's energy policies were heavily criticized after a storm caused a blackout across the entire state in September.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed the power loss on what he said was South Australia's aggressive pursuit of renewable energy.

The storm destroyed transmission lines and other critical infrastructure, leaving 1.7 million residents without electricity for days.

During the summer in February and March, South Australia also faced planned power cuts, known as load-shedding, as there was not enough electricity to meet demand.

"Battery storage is the future of our national energy market and the eyes of the world will be following our leadership in this space," Weatherill said.

In March, the state government announced that battery storage was a key part of its energy plan, which includes owning and operating a 250-megawatt gas-fired plant.

​"This will completely transform the way in which renewable energy is stored, and also stabilize the South Australian network as well as putting downward pressure on prices," Weatherill said Friday.

Musk said the battery would result in a "fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid."

Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University in Queensland, said that cost-effective storage of electrical energy was "the only problem holding us back from getting all of our power from wind and solar."

"This project is a significant innovation to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale storage," he said in a statement. "It will not, by itself, enable South Australia to have reliable energy just from wind and solar, but it is an important step forward."

Sankar Bhattacharya, acting head of the department of chemical engineering at Monash University, said it was "a substantial development in the deployment of battery technology."

"Its operation will shed light on the techno-economics and identify opportunities for improvements as the batteries are scaled up in the near future," he said.

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