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Lyon Group to build world’s largest solar-plus-storage project in South Australia

Another solar-plus-storage project from Lyon Solar. Credit: Lyon Group

Brisbane-based renewable energy investor Lyon Group will soon start building a AU$1 billion (US$767 million) solar-plus-storage farm in South Australia - the world’s largest.

The Riverland project will include 330MW of solar PV requiring AU$700 million investment alongside a 100MW/400MWh lithium-ion battery system costing between AU$200-300 million. This will also be Australia’s largest PV farm.

Various news outlets including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have cited Lyon Group founding partner David Green speaking to reporters in Adelaide about the record-breaking project.

Green said the project would include 3.4 million solar panels and 1.1 million batteries. Lyon Group has secured land with construction set to kick off in June, requiring 270 workers, and commissioning due in December. It was reported that grid connection negotiations are at advanced stages.

The storage element of the project comes at an auspicious time given the multiple blackout issues that hit South Australia over the last few months, causing a fierce national debate about whether renewables were to blame. Even Tesla chief Elon Musk weighed in by offering to build a 100MW battery to solve the crisis, which he would provide free of cost if not commissioned within 100 days of being asked. Musk's semi-humorous comments lead to a conversation with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on related topics (see tweet below). Just a few days later the South Australian government announced plans to tender for a 100MW battery, emphasizing that there will be an open, competitive tender process. Lyon Group has reportedly already shown interest in participating.

Moreover, as more renewables come online all over the country, Australia’ s energy industry faces the impact of imminent closures of multiple old, coal-fired plants. For example, the Clean Energy Council today called for renewables and storage to replace the 1.6GW Hazelwood coal station in Victoria, which was closed this week.

Now Lyon Group, which is backed by Japanese giant Mitsubishi and Blackstone via US hedge fund Magnetar Capital, has announced its own separate storage plan for South Australia.

Green told reporters that the solar power generation will qualify for renewable energy subsidies of AU$84/MWh, additional to the wholesale market price. The project is also 100% equity financed.

Another 100MW battery at Kingfisher

Lyon Group had already announced last year another major solar-plus-storage project at Roxby Downs in South Australia.

The Kingfisher Project will include 120MW of solar costing AU$250 million and a 100MW/200MWh lithium-ion battery system requiring between AU$100-150 million investment. This will include 1.3 million PV panels and 1.1 million batteries again.

The battery will be connected to a grid that will power nearby mining activity. The project will also be connected to Australia’s wholesale market, the National Electricity Market (NEM). It is due to come into full operation by mid-2018.

Engineering firm Downer will carry out EPC, while US-based firm First Solar will carry out O&M activities.