Australia’s biggest battery installation, the Victoria Big Battery (VBB) near Geelong, has been officially registered to deliver Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS), one of the key service markets in the country’s main grid.
The addition of the 300MW, 450MWh VBB – owned by Neoen, which also operates the Hornsdale Power Reserve and the Bulgana big battery – is one of the most significant developments in the market in recent years as it becomes the biggest non hydro player in the market, and the fourth largest overall.
It remains to be seen exactly what impact the VBB will have on the market, but the sheer scale and the flexibility it can deliver by changing course in a matter of milliseconds will likely mean it has an outsized influence. Much will depend on Neoen’s operating strategy.
The registration list was updated by the Australian Energy Market Operator on Tuesday, confirming that the VBB is now to registered to provide 300MW into the Lower Frequency Regulation market as a generator and 250MW into the Raise Frequency Regulation market as load.
Both of these services are critical to enabling greater penetration of variable renewable generation into the market.
For instance, when solar or wind generation is high and pushing frequency higher, VBB will be able to provide critical load to lower the frequency, and when solar and wind drop off, VBB will provide generation to raise the frequency.
The registration follows several weeks of testing and commissioning, which was initially delayed after a fire in two of its Tesla Megapacks in late July set the process back by several months.
The VBB has a contract with AEMO to deliver 250MW and 125MWh of its capacity at peak times to upgrade the limits on the main transmission link between Victoria and NSW. Its ability to respond instantly to any outages or other incidents will allow AEMO to operate that link at or near full capacity.
Australia already has six big batteries in operation, with another three – the VBB, the Wallgrove battery in NSW and the Wandoan battery in Queensland in varying stages of commissioning.
The batteries have already seized a sizeable share of the FCAS market, and according to an AEMO report in 2018 delivered services that were “both rapid and precise, compared to the service typically provided by a conventional synchronous generation unit”.
The big batteries are now moving into new markets, with a newly created fast frequency response market due to begin in 2023, and providing new services such as synthetic inertia and providing system strength in “virtual machine mode.”
This latter is considered a crucial element of a grid that will see a rapid decline of coal and gas units in the coming decade. As we report elsewhere today, ARENA is about to launch a new funding round to ensure that the VMM capabilities are rolled out at scale to complement the increase in wind and solar.