UPC buys into South Australia pumped hydro and solar projects

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UPC-AC seek to accelerate Baroota pumped hydro project in South Australia and neighbouring 300MW solar farm after buying majority stake.

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The surge in development proposals in South Australia continues, with UPC Renewables and its Philippine partner AC Renewables buying a majority stake in the Baroota pumped hydro project and a neighbouring 300MW solar project, with a view to locking in finance by the end of the year.

The 250MW Baroota pumped hydro project, with eight hours storage, was one of 12 projects short-listed by the Australian federal government in its Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme, and one of three pumped hydro projects in South Australia, along with Sanjeev Gupta’s proposal for the Middleback Ranges near Whyalla and a proposal for Lincoln Gap by Sunset Power.

These projects are considered the most advanced in South Australia, and it is thought that at least two such projects, possibly three, will be needed as the state leaps from a 50 per cent share of wind and solar towards the “net 100 per cent” renewables targeted by the state Liberal government.

The $400 million Baroota pumped hydro project is located in the state’s mid north and right next to the Bungama-Davenport transmission line. The deal to buy the majority stake from Rise Renewables includes the neighbouring 300MW Bridle Track solar farm, which will likely be built in stages.

Baroota will use the existing reservoir as its lower pond, with an upper reservoir to be built, along with penstock, pipeline and power station.

UPC Renewables CEO Anton Rohner says the three partners now intend to accelerate the development of the Baroota project, which they see as the most optimal for the South Australia market.

UPC-AC will lock in the funding, and hope to reach financial close by the end of the year.

“We’re very excited about this because it (the storage project) allows us to develop our other projects around Australia,” Rohner told RenewEconomy.

UPC is also involved in the Robbins Island wind project in Tasmania, which has run into a political storm following objections from former Greens leader Bob Brown. It also hopes to lock in finance this year for the first 400MW stage of a 720MW solar project near Uralla in the New England region of NSW, and also has a 160MW solar project in Victoria in the pipeline.

South Australia is experiencing a surge of interest in new wind and solar developments, with at least four large scale solar projects associated with significant battery storage, and another combining wind, solar, batteries and hydrogen storage.

Rohner told RenewEconomy that South Australia was a “very dynamic” market, with investors also looking at the possibilities that will arise from the proposed new interconnector from South Australia to NSW, and the anticipated closure in that state of the Liddell coal generator.

“One of the key aspects of the NEM as we transition to a low carbon emissions system is the need to build and operate longer term storage projects like Baroota,” Rohner said in a statement.

“Dispatchable power such as Baroota coupled with renewables like wind and solar will smooth the transition to a low emissions system”.

Brer Adams, a director of Rise which did the initial development of Baroota, said it was pleasing to see the project timeline accelerated.

“Pumped hydro energy storage is the missing link in Australia’s electricity network, offering the potential for long-hours energy storage and on-demand generation.

“Bridle Track Solar Project will be co-located adjacent to the pumped hydro project offering significant locational and shared infrastructure advantages. The Projects will provide network services, helping to balance variable generation and supporting further development of South Australia’s electricity market”.

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