Explainer: The big 3 projects making South Australia capital of battery storage | RenewEconomy

Explainer: The big 3 projects making South Australia capital of battery storage

The 100MW/100MWh battery storage project proposed for Whyalla is one of three big projects that will make South Australia the leader in battery storage, as well as wind and solar.


It’s not surprising, given its high penetration of wind and solar, but South Australia is now emerging as the capital for battery storage in Australia, and one of the leading locations in the world.

The interest in South Australia goes beyond its 50 per cent share of wind and solar – a percentage that could leap to 70 per cent in coming years – to the fact that it is a grid “at the end of the line” with only one major connection to Victoria.

And, like the rest of Australia, South Australia is hit with high grid prices for electricity, which makes it the perfect place to test the economics of battery storage, whose costs are expected to at least match the rate of fall in the cost of solar PV.

That makes South Australia of huge interest to the energy industry in Australia, and also the world. Here’s a summary of the main battery storage projects currently underway.


Whyalla Steel:

The Gupta owned Liberty OneSteel and his newly acquired Zen Energy announced on Monday a major battery storage installation as part of their plans to build 1GW of renewable and storage capacity in and around Whyalla, and slash energy costs for the steel group by around 40 per cent.

The 100MW/100MWh of battery storage will use control technology from the US-based Greensmith. This will optimise the servicing of the FCAS (network support) and wholesale electricity markets, as well as smoothing the output of the solar PV, which will begin at around 200MW in Whyalla and could increase by a further 480MW.

The installation will also be paired with a pumped hydro storage facility located in a disused iron ore mine: this will provide some 120MW and 600MWh to time shift the output of solar and act as back-up when needed. It is expected to be completed by 2020.

There is another pumped hydro plant proposed for Cultana – possible 225 MW with a capacity of 1770MWh, and near Port Augusta, although this might be further away from development. Read a good explainer here.


Tesla big battery:

The Tesla big battery next to the 309MW Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown in South Australia will be the biggest lithium ion battery storage facility in the world when it opens by December 1.

The 100MW/129MWh installation, composed of Tesla PowerPacks batteries (each of 100KWh), will have two functions:

Around 70MW/39MWh will be  contracted to the South Australia government to deliver fast response services that can help stabilise the grid in the case of a fault or outage – providing the glue to hold the network together while other slower-reacting infrastructure is brought into service.

The other 30MW/90MWh will be used by Neoen, the owners of the Hornsdale wind farm, to “time shift” renewable energy, storing at low prices and exporting at high prices.

It will not strictly store or smooth out the wind output directly because it has a separate connection, and will be able to store electricity from the grid even when the wind farms are not producing. Here is a full explainer of how it will work, and Neon’s Franck Woitiez discusses it further in this episode of our Energy Insiders podcast.


Wattle Point wind farm:

This 30MW/8MWh battery storage facility located next to AGL’s 90MW Wattle Point wind farm will use ABB an Samsung technology and perform several different services.

Number 1 is the fast response grid services, which like the Tesla and Whyalla batteries, will help keep the grid stable in the case of a major fault. It will also be able to help create a localised “mini-grid”, meaning that with the aid of the wind farm and local rooftop solar, it can keep the lights on in the case of a wider outage.

The Wattle Point battery is expected to be operating by May, 2018. It will be operated by AGL and contracted to perform grid services to ElectraNet. It will cost $30 million, with ARENA providing around $12 million.

And the rest:

Two small scale battery aggregation projects are also being put together, one a 5MW “virtual power plant” with AGL Energy, and another by the local network operator SAPN.

Companies such as Lyon Group have also outlined plans for major large scale and battery storage installations – one near Olympic Dam, but nothing further has been heard.

Neoen has plans for a 20MW/34MWh battery storage facility near Stawell in Victoria, which along with a 196MW wind project will power the proposed vegetable greenhouse to be built by Nectar Farms.

Victoria also has a tender for two 20MW battery storage projects totalling more than 100MWh, but the result of that tender is yet to be announced.

Queensland also tendered for 100MW of storage as part of its recent Renew400 initiative, and attracted 6,000MW of storage proposals, but that is now on hold pending the result of the upcoming state poll.



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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    More egg on the faces of Two Tongues Turnbull and his hand puppet Joshie. They couldn’t hold back in piling into Premier Jay for months on end. Now their silly political game has hit a..battery storage ‘lithium wall’ as opposed the the proverbial ‘brickwall’.
    Hell, even the Marshall ( SA Opposition dude ) reckons batteries are good with his offer to help install home batteries for low income earners. Turnbull and Frydenberg…its all turning to shite.

  2. AlanfromBigEasy 3 years ago

    Pumped storage will last well over a century with minimal maintenance (rewind motor/generators every 40 years, etc) with no drop in capacity (maybe 1% to wear on turbine blades).

    Chemical batteries last a dozen years or so before recycling with daily use & lose capacity from year one.

    Chemical batteries are simply not the way to go – except as a minor supplement to Pumped storage & very short term load leveling.

    • George Darroch 3 years ago

      They both have their advantages.

    • Peter F 3 years ago

      Pumped hydro takes 90 seconds from stopped to providing serious backup, batteries about 200msec.
      Batteries can be placed near the load, reducing transmission losses by charging offpeak and removing transmission faults as a source of outages
      Batteries can go from charge to discharge in less than a second so can be used to smooth the output of individual wind and solar farms.
      Batteries can be installed in 6-9 months have virtually zero planning issues vs pumped hydro with extensive EIS processes and 2-4 year construction times
      For storage of less than 4 hours batteries are cheaper than pumped hydro even allowing for future battery replacement

    • Patrick Comerford 3 years ago

      Your comparing apples with oranges and saying apples are best.

      • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

        Hey Patrick, I flew off the handle the other week completely in miscomprehension what you were saying. Would have deleted that garbage myself eventually if RE didn’t beat me to it.

    • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

      Tesla batteries have been in circulation (Roadster, Model S) for more than ten years and the indication is their very oldest ones have averaged less than 5% capacity decline in all that time. Such is the quality of their batteries. All indications are chemical batteries will last 20 years or longer. Battery tech is also advancing, prolonging their already long enough life with each production cycle. It’s also getting cheaper at such a rate that replacement cost of a powerpack after 20 years will become a non or minor issue.

      I absolutely see the need for pumped hydro, but don’t put it into direct competition with chemical batteries or it will lose.

    • Chris Fraser 3 years ago

      Hydro for time-shifting demand, batteries for response time and system stability.

  3. Peter F 3 years ago

    The interesting thing about this experiment is that once it is understood how well these storage resources interact with the grid, SA will probably be able to drop the 4 gas turbine rule so that the renewable share will rise even without new renewable generation capacity.

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