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South Australia’s defeated Premier announces 140MWh battery before conceding election

The SIMEC Zen battery will be a little larger than the Tesla-supplied Hornsdale Power Reserve (pictured). Image: Tesla.

One of the final acts in office of outgoing South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill, whose Labor Party was voted out in elections last week, appears to have been inking a deal for another 100MW+ lithium battery facility.

Sanjeev Gupta, the billionaire businessman who took over as chairman of electricity supplier Zen Energy, is in the frame as developer of a 120MW / 140MWh battery energy storage project which would slightly eclipse the recently completed 100MW / 129MWh system by Tesla-Neoen for size.

A statement went out late last week from Weatherill’s office, as the state prepared to go to the polls for its elections. As Weatherill was voted out and the Liberal Party, headed by Steven Marshal, prepared to take over, the statement was unavailable today on the S Australia Premier’s website, which is now 'under construction' in anticipation of the handover.

Australian news outlet ABC reported that the State Government’s Renewable Technology Fund will loan Gupta’s ZIMEC Zen Energy around AU$10 million for the project. Gupta famously said Zen Energy would be deploying renewable energy on a gigawatt-scale in Australia, in many cases to support the operations of commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities, with energy storage considered an enabling technology. Zen also bagged a contract to supply power to South Australian government buildings in December last year.

Further to this end, the new battery facility is being constructed at Whyalla, a steelworks which Gupta’s family companies bought and saved from being closed down. ABC said the battery system will be paired with solar farm facilities at the steel plant.

Jay Weatherill said the battery system would underpin the “long-term viability” of the steelworks, while providing additional benefits to the local grid, science news site Phys.org reported.

Prior to the elections, the victorious Liberal Party had said it planned to scrap a 50% renewable energy target by 2025, but that it would commit AU$100 (£59.1 million) towards supporting household deployment of batteries, and AUD$50 (£29.7 million) of support for grid-scale batteries.

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