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By Holly Tancredi, Assistant Editor, Energy Magazine

Announcements regarding new large, grid-scale batteries are becoming a constant in Australia. So what big batteries have been produced, what’s been completed thus far in 2022 and what is being developed for Australia’s future and the AEMO’s ISP goal of 15GW of total storage capacity?

The consistent increase in renewable energy in Australia’s energy market is creating a regular need for demand management and battery storage solutions. Across the country, a number of big, utility-scale batteries are already in operation, helping to ensure the reliability of our energy network. A number of new storage developments have been announced this year, which will continue to backup the network as renewable energy penetration increases.

Supersized energy

To ensure New South Wales continues to have reliable energy supply following the anticipated closure of the Eraring Power Station, the New South Wales Government is delivering the Waratah Super Battery project. The project includes the largest standby network battery in the southern hemisphere, providing a service of up to 700 megawatts of capacity dedicated to supporting the transmission grid.

The Waratah Super Battery will operate as part of a System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS) designed to monitor transmission lines and enable the battery to act as a ‘shock absorber’ in the event of any sudden power surges, including from bush fires or lightning strikes.

By supplying additional on demand capacity, the Waratah Super Battery provides a virtual transmission solution that will increase the transmission capacity of the existing network, allowing electricity consumers in the Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong demand centres to access more energy from existing generators.

The Waratah Super Battery project is being delivered as a Priority Transmission Infrastructure Project, or PTIP, under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 (the Act), and is the first PTIP to be delivered under the Act. The super battery is set to provide additional energy generation for Sydney,

Newcastle and Wollongong while renewable energy zones (REZs) and further transmission projects are completed. It will further serve as the backup energy supply during outages which will be necessary as the Eraring Power Station closes in 2025.

In October 2022, the New South Wales Government issued a formal direction to Transgrid, as Network Operator, to carry out the Waratah Super Battery, including designing a $30 million control system to trigger the battery into operation when additional energy is required.

Transgrid CEO, Brett Redman, said Transgrid was fully committed to ensuring a more reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply for Australians as they work with the government to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.

“The co-location of the super battery and our substation will bring new life and jobs to the retired Munmorah coal-fired power station site as well as ensuring additional energy is located near high growth areas including the burgeoning Lake Macquarie and Central Coast regions,” Mr Redman said.

“The Waratah Super Battery is part of the NSW Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap which is bringing together transmission, generation, storage and firming infrastructure to ensure we can pivot away from old world coal towards new, clean energy sources.”

Would you like a SuperGrid with your Big Battery?

Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan, announced in September 2022, outlined significant changes to how the state is planning to “remove regular reliance on coal-fired generation by 2035” with a 70 per cent renewable target by 2032 and 80 per cent target by 2035. The plan outlined the steps to convert the state’s electricity grid into a “SuperGrid”.

More detailed Battery Industry and Energy Storage strategies will be released in 2023 and 2024 respectively. The State also announced major funding – $500 million – for public and locally owned energy businesses to invest in battery storage, while the funding for subsequent REZ developments and upgrades will be around $4.5 billion.

Queensland also continued its aptly-named “battery blitz” in 2022, with the addition of many large grid-scale batteries and finished projects reaching capacity.

The Wandoan South Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) recently reached its full capacity and is currently supplying 100MW of grid capacity and storing up to 150MWh of renewable energy to its Queensland consumers. The project, which was acquired by AGL in August 2022, offers 100MW of grid capacity energy – equivalent to powering 57,000 homes.

“Storage projects like the Wandoan South BESS will enable AGL to leverage excess solar generation in Queensland and provide capacity when AGL’s Cooper’s Gap Wind Farm in Queensland is not generating or when the energy market needs it,” said Markus Brokhof, AGL’s Chief Operating Officer.

The battery, originally owned by Vena Energy Australia, is now under the ownership of AGL for a 15 year contract, following an 18 month testing and commissioning process. The State Government has also completed an $8 million battery in Tanby, with Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Stephen Miles, calling the battery an important and innovative addition to energy supply for Central Queensland.

“We know there’s been a huge uptake in rooftop solar energy in Yeppoon and Rockhampton and this investment will drive even more,” Mr Miles said. “It means renewable energy made during Central Queensland’s many sunny days can be stored to use during peak demand periods in the evening.”

Western storage at scale

In Western Australia, Synergy’s Big Battery is the major storage development set to help power the state. Battery storage is fast becoming a critical part of Western Australia’s energy landscape and Synergy’s Big Battery, once constructed, will be the biggest in the state.

As a key element of the Western Australian Government’s Energy Transformation Strategy, it will help support the state’s electricity system and enable the uptake of more renewables in the community. Planned to be the size of 14 tennis courts with the generating capacity of 100MW/200MWh, the Synergy Big Battery will be capable of powering 160,000 homes for two hours.

The Big Battery project was announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Energy Bill Johnston in October 2020. Currently under construction at Synergy’s Kwinana Power Station, it is set to be operational at the end of 2022. The Big Battery will have an easy, millisecond transition from charging and discharging to ensure reliable, stable power is provided whenever needed.

Victorian Big Battery number…?

In December 2021, Neoen celebrated the operational opening of the biggest system battery in the Southern Hemisphere, its 300MW Victorian Big Battery located in Geelong, Victoria. Its production is supporting the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 50 per cent by 2040 and was delivered alongside collaborators Tesla and AusNet Services.

Neoen’s plan for a second big battery for Victoria is currently in its early planning stages. If approved and completed as outlined, the project would have a huge 600MW capacity and be connected to the Moorabool Terminal Station and would be operated independently as a separate entity.

Neoen Chief Executive Officer, Xavier Barbaro, said the Victorian Big Battery was a major milestone. “We are convinced that large-scale battery storage is a vital element of the energy transition, and we are proud of our leadership in this sector. We will continue to build on our experience to deliver world leading solutions that help to shape and transform the grid of the future, for the benefit of industry and consumers across Australia and around the globe,” Mr Barbaro said.

The Victorian Hazelwood Battery Project, announced in December 2021, is set to be online in November 2022, providing 150MW/150MWh. In July 2022, the installation of accessories, cooling systems and a header tank was undertaken; and its main transformer, which converts 33,000 volts into 220,000 volts and weighs over 100 tonnes, was also delivered and installed.

The Koorangie Energy Storage System (KESS) contract was awarded to Edify Energy in September 2022 and is currently in its development phase in Gannawarra Shire Victoria. Its unique lithium-ion battery is designed to provide 125MW of services, and connect to the 220kV Murray River REZ. The KESS was designed to boost the REZ’s renewable hosting capacity and further stabilise the network when it commences operations in 2025.

Renewable energy company, Maoneng, also has 1,800MWh of BESS projects in development across the country. Most recently, its 240MW/480MWh Mornington Peninsula Battery achieved development approval in the middle of 2022. With four other utility-scale batteries in New South Wales and Adelaide set for a 2023 operational timeline, the batteries will provide pivotal energy storage for the clean energy transition.

Powering people and their future

Big batteries, with their major construction work and maintenance, create thousands of jobs for the Australian workforce, the majority from the construction industry. All the big batteries discussed supported around or over 100 construction jobs and created numerous permanent positions across their projects.

Large-scale battery storage is an invaluable part of Australia’s transition to net zero and a clean energy future. The increase of renewable energy will be supported by batteries’ ability to meet consumer demand at times when renewable energy isn’t being generated, providing the crucial missing link to ensuring ongoing energy supply.

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