Australian Capital Territory government ‘invests’ in 250MW battery project

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The state government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will pledge funding towards a battery energy storage system (BESS) rollout in its 2022-2023 budget to be announced 2 August.

The government’s procurement process is already open for the Big Canberra Battery, a three-stage energy storage project through which it aims to get a 250MW grid-connected BESS built, followed by smaller systems at government buildings and then a set of ‘neighbourhood batteries’ for residential communities.

Although an announcement today from the office of ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr did not disclose the amount of investment, various reports in local media said the state government will commit around A$850,000 (US$586,000) initial funding from the budget to get the project started.

The project was first revealed in a previous budget for 2020-2021, with the ACT government pledging to invest a total of A$100 million in the project over five years.

“The ACT is leading the nation on climate action. We are already powered by 100% renewable electricity, and the next step in our plan to reduce emissions and provide sustainable energy to Canberra households is the delivery of one of the largest battery storage systems in the Southern Hemisphere,” Barr said, with the ACT targeting net zero emissions by 2045.

The government recently also published a zero-emissions vehicles plan for the state, which Barr previously admitted would increase demand for power considerably as electrification progressed.

The batteries will reduce load on the electricity network and enable more ACT citizens to put solar PV on their roofs, the government statement noted, with the initial 250MW stream directly supporting the electricity network. In Stream 2, battery storage at government buildings in 14 sites will reduce their grid power consumption and the network of neighbourhood batteries will do the same for households in Stream 3.

Procurement processes for the first two streams are being readied for launch and are expected to be open for industry to take part from August.

The government had previously sought input from stakeholders, industry and experts last year on the Canberra Big Battery project, accepting views on possible locations, applications and other planning aspects.

Policymakers also worked with the Australian National University (ANU) to shape plans of how the batteries could work. Industry stakeholders were invited to take part in workshops held with ANU and according to the government, the high number of participants, from 42 organisations and their level of involvement indicated there is strong support for the programme.

Regular readers of Energy-Storage.news will recall that a team from ANU wrote an article for our quarterly technical journal PV Tech Power on the benefits of neighbourhood battery storage, as well as current technical and economic challenges they face, based on socio-techno-economic studies.

Commissioning is expected to take place across 2023-2024 for the ACT’s new fleet.

Two large-scale battery storage projects are already in construction in the ACT after their developers were awarded contracts in 2020 through a government renewable energy procurement.

Through the ACT’s fifth Renewables Reverse Auction, developers of two large-scale wind farms were awarded long-term contracts at under A$50/MWh (US$36/MWh) to build battery storage in the state.

French developer Neoen is building a 100MW/200MWh BESS along with its Goyder South renewables hub which includes wind, solar PV and batteries. The company, behind some of Australia’s biggest battery projects to date, signed another offtake agreement for the project with major energy generator-retailer AGL in April.

The other awarded project would see a 10MW/20MWh BESS built by developer GPG – a subsidiary of international renewables developer Naturgy – alongside the company’s new Berrybank Wind Farm.

Interestingly, neither firm’s wind farm is itself in the ACT. Goyder South is in South Australia and Berrybank is in Victoria, but through contracts with the ACT government will deliver power there and their battery systems deliver load management and grid services capabilities to the territory also.

Reconfiguring energy markets for the age of energy storage

In related news, today the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said it will help fund a study into the integration of energy storage into energy markets.

The national agency will fund A$495,000 of the total A$1.18 million expected cost of Monash University’s study, exploring alternative energy market designs that could encourage investment into energy storage and ensure Australia gets the energy storage it needs to transition from centralised fossil fuel generation to renewable and distributed energy.

Examples include formulating a spot market for inertia, an application energy storage can provide which ARENA has been keen to also explore from a technical level, helping to fund demonstration battery projects that provide synthetic inertia to the network through advanced inverter technologies.

“As traditional generation retires, we need storage to play a bigger role in firming up and balancing our electricity system,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said, calling investment in everything from large-scale pumped hydro and BESS to small-scale batteries as “vital to continue Australia’s uptake of variable renewable energy into the grid”.

The ARENA funding will go to Monash Energy Institute’s Grid Innovation Hub at the university.

“For a successful transition to a low carbon energy future, energy markets must reflect the full value of all the services modern technology offers,” Grid Innovation Hub chairman Tony Marxsen said.

“Services from battery storage are not valued clearly at present, and this exciting research will reveal ways in which markets can better reflect their value to guide investment.”

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