CEP.Energy, a company chaired by former NSW Labor premier Morris Iemma, has announced plans to build what it says will be the “world’s biggest battery” – 1,200MW – at the industrial centre of Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley, right where the Morrison government wants to build its own gas-fired generator.
The CEP plans follow on from the announcement last October that the company would build a network of industrial-scale rooftop solar and battery storage installations, totalling up to 1,500MW.
These plans have now been expanded to encompass grid-scale batteries, with the 1,200MW Kurri Kurri battery – there is no word yet on the storage duration – to be part of a network of four big grid-scale batteries across the country with a total capacity of 2,000MW.
Peter Wright, the CEO of CEP, and a former Macquarie executive, says this will make CEP the biggest owner of battery storage assets in Australia, although France’s Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Power Reserve, and is building a 300MW/450MWh big battery at Geelong and a 900MW/1800MWh battery at Goyder South, and is also considering a 500MW big battery near Sydney, may contest that claim.
“The (Hunter Economic Zone) site for our NSW battery is zoned for heavy industrial use, pre-approved for power generation and located adjacent to sub-station infrastructure. It is among the best handful of sites in Australia for reliable and efficient grid connection,’ Wright said in a statement.
It is also likely to kill plans by the Morrison government to have its wholly-owned utility Snowy Hydro build a 1,000MW gas plant in the same area, ostensibly to help replace capacity lost by the impending closure of AGL’s Liddell coal generator.
Iemma said this and other batteries would play a major role in filling the gaps left by the gradual retirement of coal and gas-fired generation assets, including the nearby Liddell Power Station. And he endorsed the NSW Liberal government’s clean energy roadmap, which has been criticised by the Morrison government and Snowy Hydro.
“The clean energy roadmap laid out by the NSW government has provided the market with the confidence to invest in renewable generation supported by large battery storage,” Iemma said.
“This project will help ensure the Hunter region of NSW remains true to its heritage as one of the nation’s energy powerhouses, as we work towards a cleaner, decarbonised future.”
The Kurri Kurri battery will compete for space in the market with a bunch of other big battery proposals, including a potential 500MW big battery canvassed by AGL, part of more than 1,000MW of battery storage proposals considered by the country’s biggest generator, including at its Loy Yang A coal plant in Victoria and the ageing Torrens gas generator in South Australia.
Wright says the Kurri Kurri battery will be built in stages, with the first to be delivered by 2023. It has not yet selected a supplier, with Tesla (favoured by Neoen), Fluence and Wartsila (chosen by AGL) among those expected to compete for the mandate.
CEP has built up a considerable team to manage its bold expansion plans, including Mark Stedwell, a former senior executive at the Australian Energy Market Operator, and former Tesla executive Jan Muller.
“CEP’s grid-scale battery network is part of our dual-track strategy to generate and store clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity for Australian businesses, and make excess power available to the national grid to firm up the increase in renewable generation,” Wright said.
“We have secured strategic locations with excellent access to existing network connection infrastructure. We have also assembled a senior management team with outstanding credentials in national energy system design and management.”
Stedwell, who is CEP’s chief strategy advisor and was previously head of Real Time Operations and Systems Capability at AEMO, said reliable battery storage would provide contingency supply to enable greater levels of variable renewable generation in the grid.
“There is clearly scope for more big battery projects that stack up in terms of location and a sustainable business model,” he said.
Meanwhile, CEP is continuing with its previously announced plans of creating a massive, aggregated virtual power plant (VPP) totalling 1,500MW of industrial rooftop solar generation supported by up to 400MW of battery storage over the next five years.
CEP has secured a property portfolio of several hundred properties and more than 10 million square metres of rooftop space, including the Pelligra Group’s significant property portfolio. Last October, it signed a deal with SmartestEnergy Australia – a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Marubeni – to manage and operate the aggregated VPP.
Scoping and installation work on the first tranche of 70 industrial and commercial properties recently commenced, including Australia’s largest private shopping centre – the Narellan Town Centre – owned jointly by the Perich and Vitocco families.
Rooftop solar panels are also planned on all proposed developments within the HEZ.
However, BirdLife Australia says it has significant concerns about the proposal for the HEZ, which it says is part of the Tomalpin Woodlands and one of the only regular breeding areas left for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, as well as a migration destination for the critically endangered Swift Parrot.
“This announcement yesterday by one of HEZ owners Frank Cavasinni and CEP Energy has clearly not been thought through,” said BirdLife Australia Woodland Birds project manager Mick Roderick.
“Last year it was a coal fired power plant, this year it’s a mega battery – but both involve the destruction of critical habitat.”