Northern Territory unveils first grid-scale battery in "solar capital" Alice Springs | RenewEconomy

Northern Territory unveils first grid-scale battery in “solar capital” Alice Springs

Territory Generation unveils 5MW battery in “solar capital” of Alice Springs that is likely to deliver pay-back within four years.


The Northern Territory has unveiled its first grid-scale battery storage facility, with a 5MW/2.5MWh system unveiled in Alice Springs to improve the integration of solar, and provide support for the new and existing gas generators.

The battery – built by New Zealand’s Vector, using LG technology – is the latest big battery to be installed in Australia, following the Tesla big battery at Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm, the Dalrymple battery near AGL’s Wattle Point wind farm, the Ballarat battery in Victoria, and the Ganawarra battery next to the solar farm of the same name.

Territory Generation CEO Tim Duignan said in a statement last Friday that the system will enable greater uptake of solar in Alice Springs, which already has the highest solar penetration in Australia.

“The Battery Energy Storage System is an important milestone in the Northern Territory’s transition to renewable energy and a critical piece of infrastructure to support the Northern Territory Government’s Roadmap to Renewables strategy,” he said, referring to the Labor government’s plan to reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

“Reliability and stability of the power system is a critical barrier in the uptake of renewable energy across Australia, and I am pleased that we are at the forefront of tackling this issue right here in Alice Springs,”

Duignan says the $8.3 million battery provides a near-instantaneous response to variation in solar load, particularly during cloud cover, and will improve power system stability for the region by helping to smooth the output of solar power.

Local energy experts also point out that it will help over the occasional trips in the gas units that still provide most of the power in the town, and should pave the way to reduce curtailment imposed by a conservative approach to local grid management.

The system has a 5MW capacity, combined with a half an hour storage capability, and it is capable of flexing to 8MW for 6 seconds and 7.5MW for 60 seconds.

The battery underwent has been undergoing testing and online commissioning and was showcased to industry professionals last Friday.

Territory Generation expects that the cost of the battery system is expected to be recouped within four to five years due to efficiencies and fuel and maintenance savings, mostly from having to use less gas generation and less “spinning reserve”.

This is likely to be the case regardless of the presence of solar, as Alinta has found with the success of the Newman battery in the Pilbara, where the company is recording significant savings by not having to run back-up generators and spinning reserve in case the main generator fails.

The Alice Springs tender was first launched in November, 2016, and awarded in June last year, as the local grid surrounding Alice Springs was said to have the highest penetration of solar in the country.

At the time, Alice Springs had around 12MW of rooftop and ground mounted solar (including the 4.1MW Uterne facility and the airport) in a grid with an average load of 25MW, and a minimum load of 13MW. This level of penetration may now have been exceeded by South Australia.

“The intermittency of solar has been hard to manage because it has risen to 40 per cent penetration against average demand, and we were starting to struggle with the stability of the system,” Duignan told RenewEconomy at the time. “Now, with this battery storage, bring on the next 20, 30, 40 per cent.”

The issue around solar reached a flash-point early in 2016, amid some extraordinary claims about the cost of renewables, or a 100 per cent renewable grid.

The then conservative government had argued that any more than 20 per cent solar penetration was not tenable. The local solar specialist CAT Projects said 60 per cent was entirely feasible with proper management.


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