NSW to fund four new big battery projects as it readies to flick switch from coal | RenewEconomy

NSW to fund four new big battery projects as it readies to flick switch from coal

NSW backs four new big battery projects, and gives funding for another half dozen even bigger battery, pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage proposals.

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Sapphire wind farm (supplied).

The New South Wales Liberal government has announced funding support for four new big battery projects in the state as it flicks the switch on the transition from coal to a grid dominated by “on demand” renewables and storage.

State energy minister Matt Kean unveiled the four chosen “construction” projects on Saturday morning. They include big batteries at the Sapphire wind project and the Uralla renewable energy hub in New England, another fast-start gas project, and a 6MW “virtual power plant” featuring multiple batteries on the south coast.

More projects could be funded pending negotiations with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. And the NSW government is supporting another six large scale storage projects in “development”, including the newly announced compressed air energy storage  project at Broken Hill,  three large pumped hydro projects, also in northern NSW (Barnaby Joyce will be thrilled!) and another two big batteries.

In all, these projects would produce more 2,200MW of “on demand” capacity. For the energy wonks, the hours of storage are not revealed and will presumably be decided once the studies are completed on the opportunities for the location and the “value stack” for the individual projects.

The announcement comes just a day after AGL Energy announced it was looking to build a big battery of up to 500MW at the site of the ageing Liddell coal generator, which will retire by 2023. That is part of plans by AGL to build up to 1.2GW of big battery and distributed battery and demand management projects across the main grid, including another 200MW/400MWh in NSW.

The NSW government said four projects identified from the 14 shortlisted in its Emerging Renewables program will receive a combined $37.5 million funding that will leverage $230 million of private investment and 170MW of capacity.

These are a 30MW battery at the CWP Renewables Sapphire wind farm near Glenn Innes that will “store excess renewable energy and put it back into the grid when it’s needed most, providing clean energy at a lower cost.”

There is the 50MW battery proposed by UPC/AC Energy next to the planned 720MW New England Solar farm near Uralla, which the government says will be the largest solar/battery hybrid project in the country.

Goldwind will integrate a 12MW battery with a 72MW highly flexible gas reciprocating engines at an “existing renewable energy farm”, but it doesn’t say where. Goldwind operates the White Rock wind and solar project in New England and also the Gullen range wind farm and solar farm in southern NSW.

SolarHub will develop – in what the government says is a first for NSW – a 6MW “virtual power plant” by aggregating the energy from a group of distributed batteries in order to “strengthen the NSW electricity network and lower electricity costs for consumers.” The batteries will be used to lower grid pressure during peak energy demand, such as summer, when the grid struggles due to high air-conditioning use.

The other projects that will receive “pre-investment” funding – potentially to leverage $2 billion of investment for another 2.1GW of firm supply – include another three big battery storage projects.

These include a 250MW big battery proposed by Renew Estate at Buronga to provide network services, a 100MW big battery at the Walcha renewable hub, also loosely linked with Renew Estate and the UPC/AC battery mentioned above, and a 30MW big battery proposed by Firm Power for western Sydney.

There are also three pumped hydro projects. A 400MW pumped hydro planned for Uralla proposed by UPC/AC, the 400MW Dungowan Dam pumped hydro project put forward by Walcha Energy near Tamworth, both linked to that enormous renewable energy hub, and a 600MW facility near Armidale proposed by Ovens Mountain (OMPS) and Alinta Energy.

There is also the CAES project put forward by Canada’s Hydrostor and supported by network operator Transgrid to create one of the world’s biggest renewable energy micro-grids at Broken Hill. That will involve storage of up to 200MW and 1500MWh.

Kean has recently unveiled plans and called for expressions of interests for two of the three huge renewable energy zones planned for NSW, including in northern NSW where many of these projects are located and in the central west. These will seek to co-ordinate network investment and renewable and storage projects to ensure that the grid congestion now being experienced in the south-west of the state is not repeated elsewhere.

NSW – because most of its coal generators will retire over the next 10-15 years – is facing the most biggest and quickest transition in the country, which the Australian Energy Market Operator says will experience the “fastest” energy transition to renewables in the world.

It has mapped out a 20-year blueprint to ensure the grid can manage a renewables share of between 70 and 94 per cent by 2040. See: World’s fastest energy transition: AEMO maps path to 94 per cent renewables

“NSW has a strong pipeline of dispatchable projects including eighteen (18) batteries approved in our planning system. This clearly shows NSW is the go to state for energy investors in Australia,” Kean said in a statement.

“Our modern grid will be made up of a whole range of tech – from massive pumped hydro projects like Snowy 2.0 right through to local rooftop solar and battery systems.”

Kean said that electricity grids across the world are seeing an influx of low-cost wind and solar generation, helping to improve competition and drive down energy prices.

“Energy storage technologies like pumped hydro and big batteries release extra electricity when we need it and store electricity when we don’t – making sure the grid is kept secure.

“The Emerging Energy Program received overwhelming private sector interest in developing battery projects, with two in three proposals involving the technology.

“NSW has a strong pipeline of dispatchable projects including eighteen (18) batteries approved in our planning system. This clearly shows NSW is the go to state for energy investors in Australia.”

Note: Story updated to clarify that any ARENA funds would be used for additional storage projects, not the four identified for funding by the NSW government.

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