Energy utility AGL has given the green light to the 250MW Torrens big battery in South Australia, its second major big battery announcement in two days as it starts to accelerate its transition from a largely fossil fuel fleet to new technologies.
AGL CEO Brett Redman said a final investment decision had now been made, and construction of the Torrens big battery is expected to begin later this year, with completion in early 2023, about the time some of the current capacity at the Torrens Island gas generator will be retired.
However, in one important development, the storage duration of the 250MW battery will initially be for just one hour (250MWh), rather than the four hours (1,000MWh) flagged when the project was first unveiled last November, which would have made it the biggest battery in terms of megawatt hours in the country, and one of the biggest in the world.
This suggests, in contrast with the four hour battery it is planning at the Loy Yang generator in Victoria, for which it announced a planning application on Tuesday, that AGL is targeting shorter terms variations and opportunities in the South Australia market, although it has not ruled out expansion down the track.
Redman said the expansion to four hours storage would occur at a later time as market conditions changed. A similar approach is being taken at Liddell, where AGL plans a 150MW one hour battery before possibly expanding that facility to 500MW and up to four hours of storage.
Storage experts point out that the market signals for many aspects of battery storage are not yet developed, and most of the revenues are focused on the shorter timeframe, mostly through the various grid services market. And in the case of AGL at Torrens, the battery will play a supporting rather than primary role in the portfolio.
Redman said there is no direct funding support from the state government for the Torrens battery. “This is a project that stands on its own two feet,” he told reporters. “AGL is putting its money where it’s mouth is.”
AGL said in a statement that the Torrens battery would be the first of the 850MW network of battery development AGL plans to have under development.
“We put forward our vision for this project less than six months ago and with the hard work of our team and support from the South Australian government we are now ready to make this a reality,” he said.
“Generating more power from wind than any other state, we know this battery will be instrumental in maintaining reliable and affordable supply for households and businesses in South Australia in the years ahead.”
The Torrens battery is the first of a planned 850MW of new battery capacity to be built by AGL, with varying lengths of storage. It is also developing the 200MW battery at its Loy Yang A power station, the 150MW battery at its Liddell power station and a 50MW battery in Broken Hill as well as supporting grid-scale battery projects including Wandoan, Maoneng and Dalrymple.
AGL Chief Operating Officer, Markus Brokhof said battery technology is key to enhancing the energy system’s flexibility and driving the energy transition and ongoing integration of renewables.
AGL earlier this year entered into “framework agreements” with global energy storage technology companies, Wartsila and Fluence, but says it is currently finalising the provider arrangements for this project in order to begin construction.
The Torrens battery will be the fifth and the biggest big battery built in South Australia, following the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale, recently expanded to 150MW/194MW, the 25MW/52MWh Lake Bonney big battery, the 30MW/8MWh Dalrymple battery (also operated, although not owned, by AGL), and the 10MW/10MWh Lincoln Gap big battery, still stuck in a commissioning queue. More big battery projects are planned, including the biggest of them all, a possible 900MW/1800MWh battery at the massive Goyder South wind, solar and storage project.
South Australian Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the Torrens battery – which he described as a new ‘biggest battery’ and funded by the private sector – was a strong vote of confidence in the state’s government’s energy policies.
It also highlighted the evolution of energy technology, with Torrens Island transforming from a once “baseload” focused gas station, to a hybrid system focused on fast response and flexibility. It recently opened the 210MW Barkers Inlet fast start generator at the site.
“It is no longer about to turning on a gas generator and leaving it on for months …. this is about managing supply and demand minute by minute,” the minister said at the press launch.
Van Holst Pellekaan said in an earlier statement that investment shows the confidence the private sector has in South Australia’s energy sector, as a result of the world-leading well managed renewables focus of the Marshall Government,” the minister said.
“It’s great to see AGL investing in new storage assets at the same time that the average household cost of electricity has come down by an average of $269 per year. Our energy policies are working to deliver cleaner, more affordable and more reliable power for all South Australians.”