AGL has unveiled a possible floating solar farm at the Loy Yang A brown coal generator in Victoria and a pilot plant of new electrothermal solar storage technology at the same site and its soon to be closed Liddell coal plant in NSW as part of its new energy strategy.
In a briefing called to discuss the split of AGL’s business into two – a “new AGL” focusing on smaller customers and new technologies, and a “primeCo” designed to manage its exit from coal – AGL says a floating solar plant was a possibility for the Loy Yang A power plant sometime in the next five years.
It did not suggest a size of the floating solar plants, but suggested “stage one” could be located on one of its “settling” ponds at the generation sitez.
“We are exploring proposals for solar developments that leverage the existing assets, such as the settling ponds,” CFO Markus Brokhof said at the briefing.
“Over time, Loy Yang will grow to a more diverse hub of different energy uses that leverage the unique attributes of the Loy Yang site and Latrobe Valley more broadly.”
CEO Brett Redman later told RenewEconomy in an interview that AGL was looking to use the infrastructure at the coal hubs to accommodate new technologies.
“The team has been looking at all the different ways to repurpose tat site, and use the connections to best of our ability,” he said. “It looks like, no pun intended, that this idea is floating to the top.
“I think that with these sties, the easiest and most obvious application is battery storage, the next easiest one is solar, because it is easier to install.”
Along these lines, AGL is also seeking to transform the soon-to-close Liddell coal generator in NSW into a new energy hub, including a previously flagged big battery (up to 500MW) and a newly announced electro thermal solar storage facility.
An MOU has been signed with an existing supplier, and will likely be announced in the coming month.
Electrothermal storage is essentially using a resource, such as a cavern, to store heat in rocks or another material, and this heat is then used to drive a turbine for generation when needed. The inclusion of solar means that this will be the primary energy source.
“We have invested equity into a partnership for the development of some exciting electrothermal solar storage technology we intend to pilot at Liddell,” Brokhof said. “We would look to have a pilot plant of the technology at Liddell.”
Brokhof said the development plan at all its energy hubs, which include Torrens Island in South Australia, comprise battery sites, waste to energy, electrothermal solar storage, as well as other site specific development opportunities that include hydrogen production.
“These are all genuine opportunities to use the existing infrastructure to give a future to the sites and keep jobs in the local communities while creating value for PrimeCo.”