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Neoen switches on Australia's biggest battery

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MELBOURNE, Dec 8 (Reuters) - French firm Neoen SA activated Australia's biggest battery on Wednesday in time for the southern hemisphere summer, after fire damaged two of Tesla Inc's "Megapack" units at the project during testing in July.

The 300 megawatt (MW) energy storage project, dubbed the Victorian Big Battery, is one of the world's largest.

Able to supply 450 megawatt hours (MWh) of power, it is seen as crucial to preventing blackouts, especially during heatwaves, in a market increasingly reliant on solar and wind power.

Neoen was selected by the state of Victoria to build the project and won A$160 million ($114 million) in funding from the Australian government's green bank for the project. Neoen has not disclosed the full cost of the project.

"The Victorian Government is proud to flick the switch on Australia’s biggest battery which will help protect our network in summer, support our renewable revolution, and slash energy prices," state energy minister Lily D'Ambrosio said in a statement.

The project will help the state reach its legislated targets of 50% renewable power by 2030 and net zero by 2050, she said.

Under a 10-year contract with the state, the battery will provide an automatic instant response in the event of an unexpected network outage, among other services, to help maintain a stable grid.

The Victoria Big Battery has more than three times the capacity of the world's first utility scale battery, which Neoen and Tesla built in South Australia in 2017 at 100 megawatts capacity. That has since been expanded to 150 MW.

($1 = 1.4049 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Christopher Cushing)