The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Elon Musk Tweets Offer to Fix Australia's Energy Crisis in 100 Days
Tesla boss and prolific tweeter Elon Musk has made an audacious bet to solve South Australia's energy woes by building a 100-megawatt battery storage farm. If the system is not operational in 100 days, the AUD$33 million (USD$25 million) technology will be provided for free.
It all started on Thursday when Atlassian CEO and Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted an article to Musk that cited a similar offer from Lyndon Rive, who heads Tesla's battery division.
Rive said he would "commit" to installing the 100-300 megawatt hours of batteries to help stop South Australia's recent string of blackouts.
"We don't have 300MWh sitting there ready to go but I'll make sure there are," he said.
Cannon-Brookes then tweeted to Musk asking him if he could really make this happen if the funds were available and the politics were sorted out. Incredibly, Musk didn't just cement the offer, he wagered that Tesla could do it in less than 100 days or else the whole installation would be given free of charge.
"That serious enough for you?" Musk added.
In response, Cannon-Brookes called Musk a "legend" and asked for seven days to "sort out politics and funding." He also asked for a price quote via private message.
Musk replied with an actual figure—$250 per kilowatt-hour for 100MWh systems—noting that Tesla is being more transparent about the prices of its products.
Like with many of Tesla/SpaceX CEO's seemingly far-fetched promises, there's a good chance the proposed South Australia battery farm could actually spark to life and under deadline.
That's because, if you recall, Tesla built a similar plant in Ontario, California in just 90 days.
That facility, described as the largest operating lithium ion project in the world, consists of 396 stacks of Tesla Powerpack units spread across 1.5 acres. The batteries can store up to 80 megawatt hours, or enough energy to power 15,000 homes for four hours.
Batteries have been touted as a way to solve renewable energy's intermittency problem. Batteries, like the ones Tesla is churning out from its massive Nevada Gigafactory, are designed to "enable so-called 'load-shifting' by charging during times when electricity prices are lower due to less demand, and discharging when demand and prices are high," as Bloomberg described. Tesla's cells can also store solar power generated during daytime and release it at night, and serve as backup during outages.
South Australia has suffered a slew of power outages in the last six months, including a February blackout during a 104-degree heatwave.
As The Verge explains, there are many reasons, including political ones, behind the blackouts. But Tesla's latest offer doesn't just help solve blackouts, it could help the country transition to a more sustainable energy future:
"The Australian Energy Market Operator has blamed the blackouts on a number of factors, including higher-than-expected demand, but the topic has become a political battleground, with the Australian government pointing to the failure of renewable energies to cover usage.
"Coal-fired power plants have been closing across Australia in recent months, hiking energy bills and contributing to blackouts like those suffered in South Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pushed for a return to the fossil fuel as part of a 'coal-fired future,' but Tesla's battery technology may help wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources persist in Australia. Musk's battery farms can store huge amounts of energy generated by these renewable sources and siphon it off during busy times, theoretically eliminating blackouts."
According to The Advertiser, Premier Jay Weatherill confirmed on Friday that he had reached out to the pair. Discussions with Tesla and Atlassian are reportedly planned for next week.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.