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Kokam commissions 30MW battery to help supply Gina Rinehart mine

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South Korea battery manufacturer Kokam has commissioned a 30MW/11MWh battery storage facility in Western Australia’s Pilbara, the large installation of its type in the country.

The battery is located next to the 180MW Newman gas-fired power station owned by Alinta, which supplies the Roy Hill iron ore mine that is majority owned by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.

The Kokam battery is configured quite differently from the Tesla big battery in South Australia, which is 100MW/129MWh, and deliberately so because its main role is to displace costly and polluting “spinning reserve”.

While the Tesla battery – known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve – combines the ability of energy arbitrage (storing wind or other cheap energy for sale at peak times), or smoothing the output, as well as providing grid security services, the Kokam battery is focused on a different market, essentially providing inertia and frequency.

Its combination of high power, low energy, is designed to allow one of the gas generators at the Alinta facility to be switched off, because the Kokam battery will jump in to provide inertia, frequency, voltage and operating protections.

Kokam Australia boss Jon Pemberton told the Smart Energy Conference in Sydney on Tuesday that the battery installation had already been commissioned, and would be formally opened by Alinta this Friday.

Pemberton says that the combination of gas and batteries was potentially a “killer application” because of its ability to allow gas generators to be switched off rather than operating as “spinning reserve”.

Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery told RenewEconomy in 2016 when the project was being considered, that that the company needed to constantly run one of major gas generators as “spinning” reserve to back up the other gas generator in case of an unexpected outage.

That, Dimery said, is consuming gas and costing money, and he said the new battery storage system would pay for itself through gas displacement – in the same way that solar makes sense as diesel replacement – and because of its ability to respond quickly to outages.

(The Newman plant stores a million litres of diesel in case it runs out of gas).

This use of battery storage as gas-fuel displacement is an interesting development. The Northern Territory is conducting a similar tender to do the same in Darwin – for up to 45MW of capacity and just 30 minutes of storage.

Kokam, Tesla and many others have tendered into that project – and a smaller 5MW battery in Alice Springs is designed for a similar outcome.

Note: This story has been updated to note that storage capacity of battery is 11MWh, not 1MWh as originally published. The missing digit has been restored.  

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  • john

    I take it that the battery is going to be charged up by the gas fired station.
    Why not use wind or solar?
    Cheaper not going to go up in price.
    To me build solar or wind end of story to charge it or and further more use a large system to supply power to the mine.

    • PLDD

      I suspect the mine and power station are isolated from the grid so they don’t have the diversified renewable supply a grid connected operation would have. Thus they need 100% reliability from the local generation and will always need a gas generator as the mine will work 24×7 and it wouldn’t be great to be working there with no power.

      But you are right to ask why not build solar/wind there as well and with that combination have mainly cheap power from renewables, a battery to manage stability, and a limited use gas peaker to provide back up.

      • Jon

        It is isolated from the grid.
        Most isolated power generation systems run at N+1.
        N is the number of generators that are required to supply the power.
        The +1 is another genererator the size of the biggest generator in the system so that if the biggest generator fails the +1 can pick up the load.
        The +1 is also called spinning reserve as it’s generally a generator that is running but not contributing to the power output.
        This battery will be big enough to supply the power of the +1 unit long enough for the unit to start (normally automatically) and get up to operating temperature.
        The battery won’t be cycled often, only on an unplanned outage of one of the generators so the power to charge it isn’t significant enough to put in a dedicated charging system.

        • Alastair Leith

          Usually batteries need to cycle often to make the investment worthwhile, but in this case just “being there” in a fully charged state is saving money. Which is unusual but that’s due to grid isolation as you and others point out.

          • Ken

            Yes thats it.
            Its size ( 30MW) is matched to the size of a gas turbine,, so it provides the “static” reserve in the event of the GT tripping.
            The capacity of 1MWh is to allow for the time it takes for a spare GT to start up and synchronise.
            The fact that it is sitting there fully charged offsets that second GT running for spinning reserve requirements, so you are saving on fuel costs.
            We were aware of its existence last year but it has been kept pretty quiet.

    • Ian

      Nothing to stop a trickle charge approach. Good idea. It could also be used as a load buffer for large starts. Another application would be to place a battery on a winder at, say, Mt Isa or on the rolling mill at Whyalla as a regenerative system/buffer.

  • ben

    Typo in paragraph one, should be “largest”

  • George Darroch

    It would be a good thing if they were replacing the entire 180MW with solar and battery, but it’s reducing emissions so it’s a good start. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of these transitions in the next few years.

  • Chris Schneider

    I would say the net step is some renewables but this is a first great step. it shows the viability and exyra wind and solar now has backup!

  • Jongun65

    Correction req’d – battery capacity is more than 1 MWh – pls review.