Tesla among 19 groups competing to build Darwin big battery

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Tesla, fresh from the success of its newly-opened big battery in South Australia, has joined 18 other groups competing for the right to build another big battery, this time in the Northern Territory.

Expressions of interest for a big battery in the Darwin-Katherine network – with a nominal capacity of between 25MW and 45MW, and storage of 30 minutes and 1.5 hours – closed on Monday, with 19 companies responding.

Apart from Tesla, there was interest from Infigen Energy, Electranet, MPower, UGL, and Carnegie’s Energy Made Clean, along with New Zealand’s Vector (which is building a 5MW battery in Alice Springs), and international groups Kokam, Mitsui, and Alstom, among others listed here.

The government-owned utility Territory Generation wants the battery to provide contingency frequency control ancillary services (FCAS), reduce the required spinning reserve from its various gas and diesel generators, provide peak shaving and ultimately allow for more solar PV in the local grid.

Tesla has already built the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery in South Australia, located next to the Hornsdale wind farm, and will build a 20/34MWh battery next to the Bulgana wind project in Victoria that will provide electricity to a new Nectar Farms greenhouse.

Other battery storage projects are springing up across the country, at the Wattle Point wind farm, at the Lincoln Gap wind farm (both in South Australia), at the Lakeland solar and storage project, and numerous other solar and wind installations.

Tesla is also said to be a front-runner for a battery storage project near Cairns, with Hornsdale owner Neoen, that could be bigger than Hornsdale – but Neon’s Franck Woitiez says those plans are in the very early stages, and will depend on the roll-out of Queensland’s upcoming renewable energy auction.

Territory Generation, meanwhile, says it needs a battery because it is running some 40-50MW of “spinning reserve” in the case of an outage of one of its fleet of gas generators, and fears this need may increase as more solar is added to the grid over the medium term.

The grid in Darwin and Katherine has demand ranging from just below 100MW to nearly 300MW, with an average of around 195MW.

So far, it has little in the way of solar PV, with only 10 per cent of households with rooftop solar and just eight larger scale solar installations (more than 100kW) totalling 8.2MW.

This includes the 5.5MW Darwin installation, pictured above, but could soon be joined by 12.5MW of solar at two RAAF installations, and a 25MW solar plant proposed for Katherine by a group known as Katherine Solar.

Territory Generation also expects household solar penetration to nearly triple to 29 per cent by 2025, and appears to have a conservative view on the grid’s ability to handle it.

“The fluctuations and step changes in generation due to cloud cover has negligible effect on power system stability at this stage,” it says in its tender documents.

“However, with penetration levels increasing to in excess of 10 per cent of the total load issues with voltage and frequency regulation start to arise.

“It is therefore a requirement that an energy storage system with sufficient capacity can supply during these periods of large solar PV capacity loss where machine ramp up/down rates are not fast enough to respond.”

However, it also notes that the battery will not be required for shifting solar output, or smoothing solar output, in the short term.

The utility wants the battery storage array to reduce the need for spinning reserve by around half, and is open to various configurations – between 25MW and 45MW of nominal capacity – and at least 30 minutes of storage.

Proposals are due by August/September this year, with the battery due to be in service by the end of the 2018/2019 financial year.  

  • George Darroch

    I really hope a company other than Tesla wins this one. Not because Tesla is not excellent, but because we need a deep and wide commercial battery sector and to give our companies the chance to develop.

    • Jon

      It would be great to see one of the Aus companies get it, Zen Energy isn’t mentioned in the article.

      • Greg Hudson

        Isn’t Zen now overseas owned ? Correct me if I’m wrong… anyone…

    • technerdx6000

      Me too, but if Tesla continues to offer the lowest price, can you blame them for picking Tesla?

  • Bonnie Le

    I hope Tesla wins. They are the BEST

    • wideEyedPupil

      There’s no such thing as best in engineering, you’re always trading off one attribute for another. “Best compromise” is best you can say.

    • wideEyedPupil

      There’s no such thing as best in engineering, you’re always trading off one attribute for another. “Best compromise” is best you can say.

    • wideEyedPupil

      There’s no such thing as best in engineering, you’re always trading off one attribute for another. “Best compromise” is best you can say.

    • solarguy

      Sorry Bonnie that’s a bit of shallow thinking. Tesla is the name on every one”s lips, but their product is no better than anyone else’s.

    • Greg Hudson

      As a Tesla shareholder, I have to agree 😉

  • Kate

    Well, when you think about it, why is reneweconomy’s title leading with Tesla’s name? Tesla are just one of, as the article states, 19 companies who lodged EoIs.

    That the article leads with Tesla’s name indicates one of two things, or possibly both.

    (a) The Tesla name is sexier to readers than other comparable energy company names. That is, it’s basically click-bait.
    (b) reneweconomy themselves are fanboi-ing at the mention of Tesla.

    We would hope that our government departments, which evaluate such documents during tender processes, are incorruptable in that they would evaluate all such documents with a fair, balanced eye to the purely financial.

    However if the political party currently in power sees a PR gain to be had from the public’s recognition of the sexy Tesla brand, and as such influences the tender process with an eye to their PR gain in the broader voting public – I would consider that a form of corruption.

    Here’s hoping that in this social media age that the sexiness of the tenderer’s brand recognition isn’t influencing who gets the nod in the end. That said, since even the reporting on the process is being influenced by the sexy Tesla brand name for click bait, I’m worried.

    • neroden

      Seems likely that Tesla’s the cheapest and quickest.

  • Andy Saunders

    But, but, but, it will only have synthetic inertia, not the real spinning-steel inertia that’s the only one good enough for hairy-chested grids!

    • Ray Miller

      You forgot to add “dumb and expensive” between hairy-chested and grids.

  • Dave Evans

    Regardless of the eventual winner, Consolidated Power Projects Australia will happily support the construction and integration.