Tilt says batteries next focus as wind earnings jump in Australia

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Tilt says battery next development priority, as higher LGC prices and a halving in curtailment from South Australia lifts earnings in latest half.

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Source: Tilt Renewables.
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The trans-Tasman and stock exchange listed renewable energy developer Tilt Renewables says battery storage will be the focus of its next development commitments in Australia, with the Snowtown 1 wind farm in South Australia remaining its most likely first “toe in the water” for storage.

Tilt chief executive Deion Campbell says a decision on a battery of around 20MW/40MWh is expected in the New Year.

“We are turning our attention to how we firm our wind generation, and battery storage will have a role to play,” Campbell told a conference call with analysts on Thursday.

And because Snowtown 1 was a “merchant” operation that sells its output into the wholesale market, it was a good place to start. “A battery of this scale enables us to put a toe in the water.

The biggest challenge is designing and locating the battery so it does not force a renegotiation of the Snowtown 1 generating performance standard (GPS), and talks were continuing with transmission company ElectraNet and the Australian Energy Market Operator on how this could be done.

“Our view of batteries going forward, is that there will be more. We are working closely with AEMO and Electranet to locate that battery in the most efficient part … we are trying to avoid opening up our GPS for that … and AEMO is supportive of that.”

Tilt on Thursday delivered its interim results, which featured a 7 per cent lift in revenue to $103.4 million and in EBITDA (earnings before interest, t ax, depreciation and amortisation) to $71.4 million.

This was largely driven by increased output from Australian wind farm, thanks to a full six months from the new 54MW Salt Creek facility, a halving of curtailment in South Australia as AEMO relaxed system strength curtailments, and higher prices for LGCs (large scale renewable energy certificates).

The rise in LGC prices, pushing them above $50/MWh for a time, was largely due to the delays in connection which Campbell said were affecting just about every wind and solar project in the country. The high LGC prices would deliver a “bundled” price of more than $100/MWh for merchant facilities.

Campbell also observed that some of the projects that had bid extremely low prices into recent auctions were having trouble delivering on those prices and some projects were not going ahead. “Some of those projects in trouble and not under construction,” but he did not specify which.

Tilt’s biggest project is the 336MW Dundonnell wind farm in Victoria, which should be complete by the end of 2020. It also involves a significant investment in transmission line.  It says 32 foundations have been poured and the “monstrous” tower parts and hubs – assembled at the old Ford factory in Geelong, were starting to be delivered.

Source Tilt: Purple is operating, yellow is under construction and green is in pipeline.

Tilt has a project pipeline of 3.4GW across Australia and New Zealand, with its “late stage” pipeline put at around 1GW. This includes the Liverpool Plains and Rye Park projects in Australia, where he said the company would “not rush into in short term”, but noted the considerable interest in power purchase agreements from customers.

Queensland also looked highly prospective, but mostly for wind rather than solar, which has largely eaten its own lunch because of the fall in daytime solar prices there, although project developers will be watching with interest how the newly created CleanCo operates the previously little used Wivenhoe pumped hydro storage facility.

Tilt also has its Snowtown 2 wind farm up for potential sale, and it is still looking at offers. Last week it refinanced the debt facility for the project at lower interest rates, freeing up $86 million in cash.

Campbell also have an update on the suit brough by the Australian Energy Regulator against Tilt and three other wind farm operators over events leading to the state-wide blackout in South Australia in September, 2016.

He said the AER had provided further documentation to the court in October, and Tilt would respond by the end of November. “Our position is that we have a strong case and we have complied (with market rules). The extra stuff provided by the AER has not changed our mind.”

The case is expected to be heard in full in the middle of next year.

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