Origin Energy has submitted plans to build a two-stage, 300MW solar and battery storage project near Morgan in the Riverland Region of South Australia.
In an application to the State Commission Assessment Panel last week, Origin said it was seeking consent for Stage 1 of the project, which would install up to 150MW (120MWac) of solar and 30MW battery storage of no specified duration.
The gen-tailer, which has recently included Molong in its project pipeline map, said it bought the ex-grazing land proposed for the project last year, and it will be situated some 6km to the north-east of the Mid Murray Council town of Morgan and to the north of the Goyder Highway.
South Australia already operates at around 57 per cent wind and solar (share of state demand), but a number of big wind and solar projects, including Morgan, Goyder South and Iberdrola’s Port Augusta renewable hub and the second and third stages of the Lincoln Gap wind farm propel the state towards the Liberal government’s net 00 per cent renewable energy target.
The proposed development would install solar panels across around 171 hectares of the land, as well as an operations centre that would include a control room, an operations shed, a switchboard and substation, and the 30MW BESS on another approximately 2.5 hectares.
Origin said that at peak construction, Stage 1 of the project would likely employ between 200-300 people over two years and then, during operation, would employ 5-10 people alongside part-time contractors for specialist electrical work, module cleaning and other maintenance.
On Stage 2, the development application said Origin had become aware of the possibility for a second component of the solar and battery project after its original investigations into the project.
This part of the project would connect via the proposed SA-NSW interconnector (Energy Connect), but Origin said it would seek planning approval separately “when the technical requirements [were] clearer.”
In comments to the Adelaide Advertiser, Mid Murry Council mayor Dave Burgess showed support for the project, which he said could deliver an economic boost to the region.
“We look forward to helping provide accommodation and local tradies and labour … (and) working with the developer if it’s approved,” Burgess said.
“These sorts of things will bring new skills into our district and that’s always helpful. We’ve had growth within the region with different irrigation projects happening, and we’re always looking for other opportunities.”
For Origin, the new project follows a fairly quiet spell in renewables development, and the recent suggestion that a pause on investments in new wind, solar and storage projects could continue in an environment of unclear, or unstable, policy.
The advice came in August as Origin reported a stable operating profit of $1.023 billion for the 2019-20 financial year, but found its net earnings almost entirely wiped out by write-downs the company announced on the value of two of its gas projects.