The race for Australia’s largest big battery is heating up, with Origin Energy unveiling plans for a massive 700MW big battery to be located at the company’s Eraring power station in the New South Wales Hunter region.
Origin Energy’s plans for the big battery would include up to four hours of dispatchable power, providing up to 2,400MWh of energy storage capacity, and is currently the largest battery storage system under consideration in Australia.
The project could win the backing of the New South Wales state government, which has set itself a target to develop up to 2,000MW of new energy storage capacity in the state, as part of an ambitious plan to support the construction of new low emissions and low cost electricity supplies as most of the state’s coal plants reach retirement age.
The Eraring power station is expected to close by 2032, but remained open to the prospect that the power station could close earlier. The construction of a big battery project at the Eraring site would allow the battery to utilise the existing network connections and infrastructure, long after the power station has been decommissioned.
Origin Energy announced that it had issued an ‘expression of interest’ for potential suppliers and builders of the big battery to come forward, as well as kick-starting negotiations with network company TransGrid to connect the battery to the Eraring substation.
Origin Energy executive general manager for energy supply and operations, Greg Jarvis, said that the company understood it had a role to play in supporting the New South Wales energy system manage the entry of new wind and solar projects as the state’s coal plants exit the market.
“We recognise we have an important role to play in positioning Origin’s electricity generation portfolio to support Australia’s rapid transition to renewables,” Jarvis said.
“A large-scale battery at Eraring will help us better support renewable energy and maintain reliable supply for customers, by having long duration storage ready to dispatch into the grid at times when renewable sources are not available.
“The deployment of this battery at Eraring will support Origin’s orderly transition away from coal-fired generation by 2032, while complementing the policy objectives of the NSW energy roadmap,” Jarvis added.
Origin said that it expects that the battery would be installed in three stages, with the first stage of the project expected to be operational by late 2022.
The announcement follows a similar plan announced by French energy giant Neoen, which recently submitted planning documents for a 500MW/1,000MWh big battery to be constructed at the site of the former Wallerawang power station, west of Sydney.
Both projects would top Neoen’s plans to build a 300MW/450MWh big battery in Victoria, a project that has won the backing of the Victorian government and which will see Neoen again team up with Tesla, following their partnership in constructing the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia.
The flurry of big battery announcements raises questions around the future of Snowy Hydro’s planned Kurri Kurri gas-fired power station. Prime minister Scott Morrison has previously indicated that his government would look to intervene in the energy market, using government-owned Snowy Hydro to build the new 750MW if the energy market did not make commitments to build new plants in New South Wales.
Morrison suggested that at least 250MW of new project commitments would need to reach ‘final investment decision’ by April to avoid the government intervention, that he has stated is necessary to ensure reliable supplies of power following the scheduled closure of Liddell power station in 2023.
The Kurri Kurri gas plant was granted ‘state significant project status’ by the NSW planning department, but with 1,200MW of new storage projects unveiled in the last few days, it is unclear whether the Morrison government will persist with the project.