Date: Mar 29, 2019

Tesla just installed its largest energy storage project in Asia to date — and deploying the hardware took just two days. (Here’s a time lapse of the build on Instagram.)

According to Tesla, the 7 megawatt-hour installation in Osaka, Japan is intended to provide emergency backup power for a Kintetsu train line, with enough power to get a train safely to the next station in the event of a grid outage. The system, consisting of 42 of Tesla’s industrial-strength Powerpack batteries, will also help “reduce energy demand on the Osaka grid during peak hours.”

The energy storage system can move one of Kintetsu’s trains to safety for up to 30 minutes. It’s the largest installed Tesla battery in Asia, and fourth in the APAC region, according to the EV builder.

Wood Mackenzie’s storage analyst Dan Finn-Foley noted that “a hospital needs essentially unlimited backup so it’s a tough sell to use a battery, but if all you need is one hour’s worth of juice to bring the trains into the station,” then a battery “makes a lot of sense.”

Other railroad batteries

Japan isn’t the only country exploring the use of batteries in trains.

Former California Governor Jerry Brown has long envisioned building America’s first electrified high-speed rail system. GE has built a battery-powered locomotive and China has made some forays into electric rail. Italian energy giant Enel has nebulous plans to install 10-megawatt-hour lithium-ion batteries on Russian railways to help trains move more efficiently.

Batteries have also been used in some regenerative braking pilot programs. But beyond a few examples, lithium-ion battery technology has yet to carve out a major presence in the train industry.

The Osaka battery is set to begin operation on April 1.

Tesla’s overlooked energy business

Amid the non-stop drama of Tesla’s electric vehicle efforts, it’s easy to lose track of Tesla’s energy business and its habit of setting energy storage installation records.

The current record-holder for the world’s biggest battery is Tesla’s 100-megawatt system in Australia. And Tesla has potentially won a contract from California utility PG&E for an even bigger 182.5-megawatt/730-megawatt-hour battery that will replace gas peakers and save ratepayers money.

At the recent Model Y unveiling, Musk signalled a renewed attention to its energy business. “This is the year of the solar roof and Powerwall,” he said.

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