Elon Musk hopes his ‘Big Battery’ will become a tourist attraction

The Big Banana, Coffs Harbour Photo: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

US entrepreneur Elon Musk is in South Australia today for the announcement that his company, Tesla, will supply the state with storage batteries for renewable energy that could power up to 50,000 homes.

Tesla and French energy company Neoen are building the world’s largest lithium ion battery for South Australia, three times bigger than any other battery system.

Musk hopes it will become a tourist attraction.

Like Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, the founder of Tesla cars and batteries and Space X rockets believes that design should be beautiful too.

He believes Tesla’s big battery, 230km north of Adelaide, has the potential to become a tourist attraction.

“Because it will be three times bigger than the next biggest battery station in the world — and we’re going to make an effort to have it also look good — that it will actually be a tourist destination for some period of time,” Musk said today at the announcement.

“You’ll just want to see this giant battery farm.”

He even seemed to evoke shades of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in describing them.

Tesla batteries as imagined by Arthur C Clarke… from Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey

Except Musk prefers white.

“They’re nicely arranged white obelisks. If this got unearthed in the future [they would think] what was this? Some sort of art exhibit?” he said.

Here’s an example in the US of how they look:

Tesla 80MW Powerpack in the US. Source: supplied

It’s not exactly Stonehenge, or an work by US artist Claes Oldenburg, but in a nation that loves building Big Things, he’s probably right about its tourist attraction potential.

After all, South Australia pioneered the genre when Scotty’s Motel in Adelaide built the Big Scotsman in 1963, beating the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour to the punch by a year. That five-metre high kilted chap with bagpipes was, incidentally, designed by Paul Kelly, who went on to bless the South Australian fishing town of Robe with the Big Lobster, a 15-metre long, 17-metre high masterpiece (the story goes the builder misread the plans in feet as metres) some 16 years later.

Australia now has more than 150 big things, from cows to potatoes, earth worms, prospectors, prawns and sheep.

Musk Big Battery has to be the potential to be an economic powerhouse for South Australia in more ways than just reliable electricity.