The Kennedy Energy Park in north Queensland, hailed as the wind, solar and battery storage project at scale in the world when built in 2018, has finally begun sending power to the grid after a near three-year delay and a dispute over its connection agreement.
The project – which combines 43.2MW of wind, 15MW of solar, and a 2MW/4MWh battery – was the first to combine all three technologies at this scale on a major grid, and was the first stage of the ambitious “Big Kennedy” plan to build a massive, gigawatt scale wind and solar project at the site.
But after construction of the first stage was completed in late 2018, more or less on time, it took nearly another three years for Kennedy to secure its registration from the Australian Energy Market Operator late last month, and it has only just begun to send power to the grid this week.
The cause of the delay is not entirely clear, but appears to be centred around the modelling required to finalise agreement on its generator performance standards, which has become a major issue across the grid and has affected multiple wind and solar and battery projects.
Kennedy joint owners Windlab and Eurus revealed in 2019 that they were in dispute with their EPC contractors over the modelling for its GPS – and it is understood that that dispute is yet to be resolved.
But it is also understood that the project owners have had to deal with different and ever-changing modelling outcomes from the local network provider and the Australian Energy Market Operator, a complaint that has been heard many time in the last few years.
The once-listed Windlab has stopped reporting on its issues with Kennedy because last year it was taken private following a takeover by the billionaire green hydrogen billionaire Andrew Forrest’s private interests (75 per cent) and Federation Asset Management (25 per cent).
Before it was taken private, it had revealed a massive write-down of $28 million for its share of the value of Kennedy, primarily due to the impact of the delays on revenues.
The $160 million project – which also included a synchronous condenser for further grid support – had been backed by an ARENA grant ($18 million) announced in 2017, and a Clean Energy Finance Corp loan ($93.5 million).
Interestingly, the long-delayed Kennedy connection has occurred just weeks after AEMO confirmed that “system strength” issues in the north Queensland region had been solved by the “fine tuning” of inverters at four solar farms, and the Mt Emerald wind farm.
This was considered an important development, and local transmission group Powerlink now recognises that inverter tunings and battery storage can solve system strength challenges at a fraction of the cost of the syncons that Kennedy, and many other projects, have been required to install.
Some of the initial output from the Kennedy wind project was captured by Paul McArdle from Global Roam, who provide our popular NEM Watch widget.
Data shows that the three technologies have separate registrations, and there has been small amounts of wind, and just a tiny bit of solar injected into the grid in the last few days. There is no sign of activity from the battery as yet.
It is likely to take several months, possibly up to six months, to work through the various “hold points” and complete the commissioning process before it is fully operational.
It still means that Kennedy is the first project in Australia’s main grid to combine wind, solar and storage, although this has been done at reduced scale more recently at the Agnew gold mine in Western Australia, and previously at other smaller off-grid locations such as Coober Pedy and King Island.
Comment has been sought from Windlab.