Is this a leap forward the power grid needs?

What started as a rather far-fetched idea to solve South Australia’s power problems is gathering momentum by the minute. Last week Tesla chief Elon Musk proposed to solve the energy crisis by installing enough batteries to prevent the state’s ongoing issues and have the situation fixed within 100 days, or "it is free".

Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who made his fortune as the founder of software company Atlassian, also accepted the deal, asking for seven days to sort out politics and funding.

Yesterday, South Australian premier Jay Weatherill announced a $550 million package, including a new government-owned gas-fired power station and battery storage facility.

The breakthrough allowing this development is in the quality of the batteries, which has been one of the great stumbling blocks the renewable energy sector has faced.

Whether wind, solar or other sources, to date renewable energy has struggled to meet the peak consumption levels generated by skyrocketing demands in increasingly hotter summers.  

Last week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described his discussion with Mr Musk about the future of electricity supply as "in-depth".

Perhaps what is even more interesting from these discussions is again it is the market driving innovation and solutions as politicians, generally speaking, procrastinate. This also poses exciting prospects for those who on an individual level have tried to supplement their own energy security in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.

In an age of increasingly obsolete coal-fired power stations, it is the market that not only drives this technology’s effectiveness but its affordability.

Climate change has sharply focused everyone’s attention to the need to find energy sources that do not pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

That has resulted in banks of solar panels becoming a common sight on people’s homes and in the springing-up of wind turbines atop of hills.

Such options are attractive because once the initial capital investment has been made, the ongoing cost is negligible – energy from the sun or wind is free.

The South Australian plan may only be in its infancy, but hopefully this opportunity is the kind of impetus that can be carried into real action and solutions.


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