Kennedy solar-wind-battery project stuck in connection doldrums

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World leading wind, solar and Tesla battery project was built months ago, but has still not been connected to the grid or energised.

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The world-leading wind, solar and battery storage hybrid renewables project at Kennedy Energy Park in north Queensland has become the latest large scale project to be held back by connection delays, with the 62MW project sitting idle for months and not expecting to be energised until next quarter.

Project developer Windlab said on Monday that construction of the project – which combines 43.5MW of wind, 15MW of solar and a 4MW Tesla battery installation has now been completed for a number of months (since last December), and still not switched on.

“However, the project is experiencing delays in completion of its generator performance standards and subsequent registration as a generator,” Windlab said in a statement.

“This is delaying energisation and commissioning. Negotiations are progressing with the grid operator and the project’s EPC contractor to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. First energisation is now expected in the third quarter of this year, with commercial operations to follow.”

Windlab is not the first company to be hit by delays in connection and energisation. The 65MW Rugby Run solar project owned by Adani Renewables sat idle for seven months, before finally reaching energisation a week after RenewEconomy highlighted the issue in May.

Numerous other projects have also been hit by delays, resulting in cost blowouts, and damages claims and court battles between project developers and contractors. The latest is Tempo Australia, undertaking its first solar contract at Enel Green Power’s Cohuna solar project in Victoria.

Some developers have blamed strict new guidelines and added complexity, and others have pointed to a lack of resources at network and grid operator levels in the face of unprecedented investment. Others in the industry also point to faults with developers and contractors.

The Kennedy Energy Hub is a ground-breaking project because it is the first on a major grid to combine wind, solar and storage in one installation. Windlab has plans to grow it even bigger, possibly as much as 1,200MW of fully flexible wind and solar capacity.

Windlab ran into issues earlier this year when it declared “force majeure” on Kennedy’s contract to CS Energy, which it blamed on connection problems, the performance of its EPC contractor, and flooding from the recent cyclone events which prevented access to the site by network commissioning crews.

Windlab’s longer term plans have also been frustrated by the slow pace of development of new grid infrastructure that would be needed to support that project, and other big wind, solar and storage projects in the region.

Windlab’s plans have also been derailed elsewhere, with a major investor backing out of plans for a 110MW wind farm in north Queensland, forcing Windlab to adjust its plans as it would need to renegotiate its GPS under new conditions that came into force in February.

That, in turn, forced it to go back to the market for new offers for a contractor and for equipment.

Windlab said in Monday’s statement that it had received bids from multiple suppliers of “next generation turbines” which had larger capacities than previously planned. It is assumed that this means the greater efficiencies of these turbines will offset the increased costs of tighter GPS standards.

“Windlab’s technical team is evaluating the responses and will shortlist preferred suppliers in coming weeks before recommencing negotiations with equity providers, lenders and the grid operator,” the company said.

It also noted it had expanded its corporate debt facility with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation  from its current limit of $3 million to $10 million, and extended the maturity date to June, 2022 – presumably to give it access to cash as it sorts out issues at Kennedy and Lakeland, and to pursue new developments.

“The revised facility provides the Company with additional working capital to further the development of its Australian portfolio, with particular focus on additional high hub height turbine opportunities identified using WindScape,” its proprietary technology, it said.

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