Big battery connection “squads” to the rescue as NSW scrambles to fill grid reliability gaps

Waratah Super Battery under construction.

Dedicated “squads” of engineers and extra staff on grid connection teams are being funded by the New South Wales government as the state scrambles to connect enough big batteries to its energy mix in time to safely usher out coal.

NSW energy minister Penny Sharpe says $8.4 million has been awarded to network company Transgrid and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to hire more staff to fast-track grid connections for four battery projects by as much as 12 months.

Delays in the delivery of battery storage projects in the state are among the key reasons AEMO has this week forecast a potential breach of reliability standards in 2025/26, in an unscheduled update to its 10-year reliability outlook, known as the Electricity Statement of Opportunities.

“The urgency for the timely delivery of transmission, generation and storage, and use of consumer electricity resources to support the grid, remains to meet consumers’ energy needs,” said AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman on Tuesday.

Among the energy storage project delays flagged by AEMO is the 400 MW, 1660 MWh Orana big battery in the central west of NSW, which the market operator said had been pushed out to late 2026 – although project owner Akaysha Energy says it is on track for the second quarter of 2026.

But Sharpe says Orana is among four big battery projects whose completion dates could be brought forward by as much as 12 months by the targeted funding, alongside the Waratah Super Battery (850 MW, two hours), AGL’s Liddell big battery (500MW, 2 hour) and the Richmond Valley BESS (275MW, 8 hour).

The minister says connecting new big battery projects to the grid is highly technical, and a lack of qualified staff can cause delays.

According to developers, the devil is in the additional requirements and time it takes to land a connection agreement, particularly as battery systems get bigger and more complex and deliver more and more different services.

When Waratah Super Battery owner Akaysha obtained its GPS (generator performance standard) from the market operator in April, CEO Nick Carter said it had taken “more than 12 months’ worth of hard effort” by his team at Akaysha, consultants Aurecon, transmission company Transgrid, and AEMO.

Sharpe says Transgrid will use $3.2 million of the funds to put extra technical staff on grid connections, and to establish two dedicated “squads” of engineers, technicians and customer support staff, to provide additional connection application review and support.

AEMO will put its $5.2 million towards hiring additional staff to project manage the grid connection process and coordinate with Transgrid and other project proponents to get the four battery projects up and running by 2025-2026.

“The funding to AEMO and Transgrid will reduce the risk of connection to the grid being delayed and help to address the reliability risks identified in AEMO’s recent report,” Sharpe said on Wednesday.

“The total capacity of these projects is equivalent to 15 per cent of the 2023-24 NSW summer peak demand or supplying approximately 800,000 households with energy during a peak demand event.

“These batteries will ensure consumers in New South Wales have access to affordable and reliable electricity sooner.”

In a separate statement, Transgrid said it hoped to have “dedicated squads of engineers” ready to get to work on battery connections by August this year.

“Their work will support the acceleration of grid connections and provide consumers with access to renewable energy supplies much sooner than previously possible,” said Transgrid’s executive general manager of network, Marie Jordan.

“This funding will support the early provision of more than 1.7GW additional energy for NSW,” Jordan said.

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