Webs, Weeds and Wisdom with Kate Walker | March

Last Friday afternoon, two tweets electrified the energy discussions bogged down in endless political and business dialogue.

“Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” messaged Elon Musk, and in reply Mike Cannon-Brookes tweeted, “legend! You’re on mate. Give me 7 days to try sort out politics & funding. DM me a quote for approx 100MW cost - mates rates!”

So just who are these two blokes?

Musk is an American entrepreneur, founder of Pay-Pal, head of the electronic vehicles firm, Tesla Motors, and of SpaceX, a satellite launch company that retrieves, repairs and reuses its launchers rather than conventionally viewing launch rockets as so much waste jettisoned into the ocean. And yes, he’s a billionaire.

Mike Cannon-Brookes is one half of the innovative Australian team that launched the enterprise software company, Atlassian, onto the world stage last year and in the process became a billionaire.

And what is the problem they are short circuiting?

You may recall that last year South Australia, so proud of its environmental energy credentials, experienced massive storms and lightening strikes which brought down electrical transmission towers and plunged the state into candle lit brightness.

Since then, the state has experienced a number of blackouts, the last being the deliberate cutting off of electricity to 90,000 homes in Adelaide for 45 minutes during the extreme heatwave in order to ensure power for critically important users including hospitals and industry. And this perceived failure of alternative energy sources together with the furious arguments about renewable and or clean sources of energy, and the real or perceived impact of traditional energy sources like coal and oil on the environment, over-heat discussion between politicians and among industry and business heavy weights. It was after the Australian Financial Review’s Business Summit (talk-fest) that Cannon-Brookes flicked the switch to Musk.

So what will Musk do within 100 days or forgo return on his investment?

His Tesla company will build a 100MW battery farm in less than four months after the contract is signed. He believes an array of batteries will go a long way to preventing a repeat of recent blackouts. His gamble is not as risky as it seems. Tesla recently built a similar system in southern California. 

 – Kate Walker

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