Gupta wins approval for Playford big battery, key part of ambitious solar plan

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Gupta’s big battery at Port Augusta wins planning approval, key part of his plan to power the state’s manufacturing industry with dispatchable renewables.

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A 100MW/100MWh battery that forms a key part of Sanjeev Gupta’s ambitious plans to power South Australia’ manufacturing sector with solar and storage – has won development approval from the state government.

The Playford Utility Battery (PUB) project – located near the former coal fired generator in Port Augusta that shared its name – this week received approval from the South Australian planning minister Stephan Knoll.

Project developer Simec Energy Australia, majority owned by Gupta’s GFG Alliance, says this a substantial step towards the commencement of construction, and for its plans to invest $1 billion in

The Playford battery has a nominal capacity of 100MW/100MWh, but output can be pushed to 135MW in periods of high demand. This compares to the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale, which has a nominal capacity of 100MW/129MWh.

The Playford battery will provide both FCAS and Fast Frequency Response services to the National Electricity Market and will take advantage of market arbitrage opportunities, and the price differential between high and low electricity demand periods. It should be noted, however, that the FCAS market cake is now beginning to shrink as more batteries enter the network.

“Securing Development Approval is another important milestone in Simec Energy Australia’s work to invest US$1Billion to deliver 1GW of vital dispatchable renewable energy to the National Electricity Market,” CEO Marc Barrington said in a statement.

“Delivering this important firming asset into the National Electricity Market will provide greater stability and enable Simec Energy Australia to provide globally competitive energy to our customers. The battery will provide significant benefits for the region and energy users who partner with SIMEC Energy Australia for their energy needs.”

“This asset is also being considered under the ARENA Advancing Renewables Program. This funding, if realised, will bring this project to life – enabling its delivery – as well as continuing to enhance retail electricity competition within South Australia.”

The Playford Utility Battery is to be built just outside of Port Augusta in South Australia, and when completed, will rank amongst the biggest battery storage systems in the world.

The Hornsdale Power Reserve, the Tesla battery’s official title, has proven to be both highly profitable and substantially reduced the cost of FCAS and frequency response services through the use of large-scale battery storage.

The Playford project follows Simec’s 280MW Cultana Solar Farm in Whyalla, which won planning approval in May, with the solar project set to include its own battery storage system.

There is also a major pumped hydro project near Whyalla, which is seeking support under the federal government’s UNGI – Underwriting New Generation Investment initiative. But nothing has been heard of it since before the federal election, probably because the Coalition was not expecting to win it.

Simec sees battery storage projects like Playford as helping to support an enabling environment for the increased deployment of variable renewable energy projects, like the Cultana solar farm.

Gupta has pledged to invest up to $1 billion in clean energy projects in South Australia, which will be used to compliment the GFG Alliance’s investments in the Whyalla steelworks that the consortium acquired in 2017, as well as the potential to manufacture of electric vehicles in Australia.

Simec’s Barrington was interviewed about the company’s plans in Whyalla and Port Augusta on RenewEconomy’s Insiders Podcast. Click here to listen to that podcast.

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