Gupta seeks regulatory approval for 135MW battery near Port Augusta

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Sanjeev Gupta’s energy offshoot seeks formal regulatory approval for 135MW/100MWh battery, as part of suite of initiatives to help power the Whyalla steelworks.

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(AAP Image/David Mariuz)
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Sanjeev Gupta’s energy offshoot has sought formal regulatory approval for his proposed 135MW/100MWh battery to be located near Port Augusta, part of a suite of initiatives that include the 280MW Cultana solar farm and a major pumped hydro storage installation to help power the Whyalla steelworks.

The formal application for the battery lodged with the Essential Services Commission coincides with a similar application for the Cultana solar farm, and indicates that Gupta, and his majority owned Simec Zen Energy is moving forward with the green energy transformation that underpinned his purchase of the steelworks in 2017.

The battery appears to have had various configurations – and may still change depending on other investments by third parties, and the final configuration of the pumped hydro scheme that is planned for an old iron ore mine in the Middleback Ranges near Whyalla, and which is a short-listed candidate for the federal government’s underwriting new generation investment (UNGI) scheme.

The application filed to the ESC nominates a capacity of 135MW/100MWh for the battery, which it says will be a lithium-ion battery system “sourced from an internationally recognised Tier 1 manufacturer”, and the equipment will include batteries, modules, racks and BMS (battery management system) integrated into existing building structure.

A battery of that size will beat the Tesla big battery – currently the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery at 100MW/129MWh – in capacity terms, but not storage. Other battery proposals, however, are putting more emphasis on storage rather than capacity, such as the 50MW/210MWh proposed for the Twin Creek wind project.

Simec Zen is an emerging force in the retail sector, particularly for the business community. Apart from supplying its own steelworks, in both South Australia as well as Victoria and NSW, it also has a contract to supply six big energy users grouped under the South Australian and has a contract with the South Australia government.

The government contract may be renewed and extended given the failure of the Aurora solar tower project, also near Port Augusta, that was going to deliver electricity to the government at an average price of $78/MWh. That project has now been withdrawn, and the undeveloped facility is up for sale.

Just about all of the documentation that accompanied the Port Augusta battery storage application – made under an entity called Sauber – were labelled “confidential” and not available for public view.

The document did say the company has contracted Wartsila to undertake operations and maintenance for the facility, and engaged Aurecon to develop modelling for the asset. It is also engaged with the Australian Energy Market Operator on the pending generation performance standard (GPS) application.

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