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Australia’s first grid-scale battery storage system at decommissioned coal plant goes online

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A large-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) has been brought online at the site of the former Hazelwood Power Station coal plant in Victoria, Australia.

Marking what looks to be the first of many coal-to-clean energy transformations in the country, the commissioning of Hazelwood BESS was announced yesterday by project partners ENGIE, Eku Energy and Fluence.

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Construction began on the privately funded 150MW/150MWh battery system in December 2021, as reported by Energy-Storage.news at the time. Funding has come from French utility group ENGIE, and Macquarie Asset Management-owned Green Investment Group (GIG).

GIG launched developer Eku Energy last November, just under a year after construction began. Eku Energy took over GIG’s development interests including the Hazelwood project and a 40MW BESS project in the UK. With GIG claiming a 3GWh development pipeline at the time, Eku Energy was created to develop, build, own and manage its BESS projects going forward.

For Fluence, it marks the company’s first deployment of its GridStack sixth generation BESS solution in Australia. Fluence will also provide operations and maintenance (O&M) for the system.

An official inauguration event was held for Hazelwood BESS this morning, attended by dignitaries including Victoria’s minister for energy & resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, and executives from ENGIE, Eku Energy and battery system supplier and integrator Fluence.

It is sited in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. It’s a region known for its areas of natural beauty, but has also been home to both coal mines and adjoining coal power stations that for about 100 years have provided most of the state’s electricity.

A coal mine at Hazelwood closed in 2017 after 60 years in service. ENGIE, the mine’s owner and operator, has been working to decommission the mine’s infrastructure and restore the land. For the BESS, the project partners have been able to benefit from Hazelwood Power Station’s 1,600MW transmission network connection.

Back in August 2021, ENGIE Australia and New Zealand CEO Augustin Honorat said that having begun as a power station operator in Hazelwood and the Latrobe Valley, the company became an investor in a multi-million dollar project to rehabilitate the site.

It is now “the builder and owner of a new energy asset that helps with the decarbonisation of the energy system,” Honorat said.  

Historic Latrobe Valley’s coal sites turning to BESS

As noted by the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA), two other significant coal power plant and mine sites in the Latrobe Valley are undergoing rehabilitation.

Utility EnergyAustralia will cease electricity production at its Yallourn coal power station by 2028, and another, AGL, has committed to closing its Loy Yang A power station by 2035 – although it is licensed to continue running the associated Loy Yang coal mine until 2048, to feed the existing Loy Yang B power plant.

Energy-Storage.news has reported on BESS projects planned to help replace and aid the decommissioning and repurposing of Yallourn and Loy Yang.

In March 2021, EnergyAustralia said it would be building a 350MW, 4-hour duration (1,400MWh) battery storage facility at Yallourn, to come online by 2026.

The company said that although the 1,450MW Yallourn coal power plant generates about 22% of Victoria’s electricity and about 8% of electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM), it costs between AU$200 million and AU$300 million a year to run, and taking it offline would lower EnergyAustralia’s emissions by 60% relative to 2021 figures.

In December last year, EnergyAustralia filed planning applications for the project, called Wooreen Energy Storage System. While it won’t be located at the actual site of Yallourn – which would be tricky given that it is scheduled to come online before the plant’s full closure – it will be located at another thermal power plant site, the 460MW Jeeralang gas peaker plant in the Latrobe Valley’s Hazelwood North region.

Meanwhile, AGL, which like EnergyAustralia is a utility generator-retailer, received state government planning approval in late 2021 to put a 200MW/800MWh BESS at the site of Loy Yang. A few months after that, AGL also got approval in the state of New South Wales for a 500MW/2,000MWh BESS project proposal at the retiring Liddell power station.

“Victoria is leading the nation in delivering battery and energy storage projects, with our ambitious energy storage targets ensuring that Victoria continues to attract industry investment and collaboration opportunities like this,” minister D’Ambrosio said today.

“The Latrobe Valley has been the home of Victoria’s energy generation for decades and new investment in technologies like energy storage will help solidify its role in our renewable energy future.”

Energy-Storage.news’ publisher Solar Media will host the 1st Energy Storage Summit Asia, 11-12 July 2023 in Singapore. The event will help give clarity on this nascent, yet quickly growing market, bringing together a community of credible independent generators, policymakers, banks, funds, off-takers and technology providers. For more information, go to the website.

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