Tesla’s and Victoria’s second big battery completed at Gannawarra solar farm

Gannawarra solar farm and battery storage facility. Source: Wirsol

Tesla’s second big battery in Australia and the second big battery in Victoria has been completed, with the Gannawarra Battery Energy Storage System also marking the largest pairing of a solar farm and a battery in the country

The 25MW/50MWh Gannawarra battery, located next to the 50MW (AC) solar farm of the same name, is smaller than the first Tesla big battery next to Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, but will play a key role in helping keep the lights on in Victoria this summer.

The Ganawarra battery, along with the Ballarat battery which was formally unveiled last month and is located at a key network junction, have been cited by the Australian Energy Market Operator as a key reason why it needs to call on less emergency reserves to help the grid manage peak demand in the midst of any heatwaves this coming summer.

Gannawarra will become the third big battery on Australia’s main grid to be ready in time for this summer, although two other batteries – at Newman in the Pilbara, and at Alice Springs – are playing key roles in their respective grids, the former in providing back-up to the main gas generator, and the latter helping to integrate the high penetration of solar.

“Solar plus storage is a ‘category killer’,” said John Cole, the CEO of consortium member Edify Energy, which oversaw the construction the project.

“The entire sector is aware of the potential for storage projects to not only provide invaluable services to the market and the grid, but also to enable the roll out of more and more clean and cheap renewable energy.

“We intend to continue our roll out of storage and renewables projects and help our corporate and other customers achieve their energy and sustainability objectives.”

Other batteries are soon to come on line – including Tesla installations at the Kennedy wind-solar-storage facility, at the Bulgana Renewable energy hub in Victoria, and at the Lake Bonney wind farm in South Australia.

Fluence, which supplied batteries to the Ballarat facility, has also been chosen for the 10MW/10MWh battery to be located at the Lincoln Gap wind farm now being built near Port Augusta.

However, another big battery, the Dalrymple North battery next to the Wattle Point wind farm, appears  is suffering delays and was not cited by AEMO in its summer readiness plan.

A spokesman for Electranet told RenewEconomy commissioning was continuing, and could be complete next month. However, Electranet have been saying that for several months now.

The completion of the construction phase of the Ganawarra battery was flagged earlier this week by part owner Wirsol, which said the milestone had been reach ahead of schedule, despite regulatory and technical challenges.

“GESS’s owners, Wirsol and Edify Energy, have overcome some unique regulatory and technical challenges to become the first battery storage system that has been retrofitted to an existing solar farm,” the statement said.

“The facility holds great significance and further demonstrates the great opportunity for integrating large-scale battery storage with solar projects.”

However, as RenewEconomy reported earlier this month, archaic rules in the National Electricity Market prevent the wind and solar farms and the battery storage located next to them from working together.

There is a push to fix the rules and create new categories that take into account the technology change, and the fact that these batteries can act faster, more accurately and with greater versality than the fossil fuel generation favoured in recent decades.

It turns out that the Gannawarra battery started exporting to the grid in mid October as part of its trials, and is currently still in the commissioning phase, but will be ready for summer that officially begins on December 1.

Darren Miller, the head of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency which together with the Victoria government provided $25 million of the $37 million cost, said it was the first time a utility-scale battery system has been retrofitted to an existing solar project, and would provide a new commercial model for other renewable and storage facilities in Australia.

“ARENA is excited about the completion of both batteries in Victoria which – along with the successful large-scale batteries in South Australia – will continue to play an important role in Australia’s transition to affordable and reliable renewable energy.”

The Gannawarra battery will be operated by EnergyAustralia under contract. It also contracts the output of the solar farm.

“The ability to store and quickly release energy will help integrate renewables into the system as coal-fired plants progressively retire,” EnergyAustralia CEO Catherine Tanna said in a statement. “These are the new technologies and approaches that will come to underpin our energy system, keeping customers’ lights on and their costs down.”

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