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Tesla Will Build the World’s Biggest Lithium-ion Battery

And, like a pizza delivery, the buyer even gets an “if it’s late, it’s free” guarantee.

Elon Musk has announced that Tesla will install a bank of lithium-ion batteries in South Australia with a total capacity of 129 megawatt-hours—making it the world’s largest li-ion battery.

The scheme essentially provides a large grid battery that will be connected up to nearby Hornsdale Wind Farm. During times of excess electricity production, the batteries will be charged; during times of high demand, their contents will be used to bolster supply.

The decision to install the batteries was spurred by a series of blackouts that occurred in South Australia over the past year—a result of storm damage to infrastructure and increased demand during heatwaves. It’s hoped that the new installation will improve security of the region’s grid.

In March, Musk announced that if his firm was to win the project, its delivery would come with a Pizza Hut-style guarantee. “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” he tweeted. According to the Guardian, the South Australia state government has confirmed that the contract it signed with Tesla (50 Smartest Companies 2017) includes that promise.

Still, Tesla is likely to be optimistic that it can come through in time. In January the company completed the installation of a similar 80 megawatt-hour system in California, and it managed to complete that project inside 90 days. According to the Guardian, Musk says that there is “some risk” that this larger project won’t go quite so smoothly, but adds that he’s “confident in [the] techniques and the design of the system.”

It’s worth noting that lithium-ion batteries aren’t, in theory at least, the ideal candidate for this kind of grid storage. The perfect grid battery would be dirt cheap and resilient to a large number of charge-discharge cycles, and lithium-ion cells are neither. But despite the best efforts of many talented folks, the quest to beat lithium-ion for grid storage has yet to provide any real contenders. And with costs dropping like the proverbial stone, their use is becoming increasingly attractive. Especially if they're a couple of days late.

(Read more: The Guardian, “Tesla Just Added a Huge Stack of Batteries to the California Power Grid,” “What We’re Doing Wrong in the Search for Better Batteries”)

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