Utility AGL plans 250MW / 1,000MWh battery project in South Australia

A planned AGL 100MW / 150MWh battery storage project in Wandoan, Queensland. Image: AGL corporate video, screenshotted.

After a series of large-scale battery announcements in Australia from Federal and state governments, utility company AGL has followed up by saying it plans to build a battery system in South Australia with up to 1,000MWh of capacity.

The publicly-listed company said in August that it wants 34% of its electricity capacity to come from renewables and energy storage by the 2024 financial year. This includes a goal to deploy 850MW of storage in the National Electricity Market (NEM), the wholesale and retail market which serves around 80% of Australia’s electricity consumption in regions excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory states.

AGL said it today that it will build a large-scale grid-connected battery storage facility of “up to” 250MW rated output with as much as four hours’ duration of storage (1,000MW), in stages, on the site of a natural gas power plant, Torrens Island Power Station. As with a growing number of large utilities and governments, AGL is targeting net zero emissions from its activities by 2050 and as early as September 2017 the company said that it viewed renewables-plus-storage as an economically viable successor to coal. At present however, AGL still has around 40GW of coal generation in its portfolio. 

South Australia has been acknowledged as one of the regions of Australia - and the world - with the highest shares of renewable energy capacity serving residents and businesses. This includes large wind farms and a high proportion of residential rooftop solar.

The state is famously the host of the Hornsdale Power Reserve project, a battery system which integrates wind energy and was recently upgraded to 150MW, making it the world’s largest such facility for some time. If it goes ahead, the Torrens Island project would be larger than the current largest battery system, LS Power’s 250MW / 250MWh Gateway project in California.

Another, much smaller South Australia project, the 30MW / 8MWh battery at Dalrymple substation, is a shining example of how batteries and smart grid technology can help integrate renewables, increase reliability of electricity supply for a community at the edge of the grid’s transmission lines and simultaneously earn revenues by providing valuable services such as frequency control for the wider grid network, Energy-Storage.news heard recently from Maxine Ghavi, head of grid edge solutions at Hitachi ABB Power Grids which delivered that project. 

'Big batteries' a key part of state government's decarbonisation and modernisation strategy

“With more renewable generation than any other state, South Australia has been a leading contributor to Australia’s low-emissions future. Wind generation is a major source of energy in South Australia and to ensure its reliability AGL is committed to delivering more firming capacity, last year opening the AGL Barker Inlet Power Station,” AGL CEO Brett Redman said.

“This battery is another step in the state’s energy transition while at the same time allowing a rapid response to changes in renewable generation when our customers and communities need it.”

The utility has also “supported the development” of other grid-scale battery systems in Australia including Dalrymple, the company said, as well as launching an aggregated virtual power plant (VPP) made up of thousands of customer-sited behind-the-meter battery systems.

The energy minister for South Australia, Dan van Holst Pellekaan said that the latest battery at Torrens Island Power Station remains subject to contracts and approvals, but will “help in our efforts to restore the South Australian grid to strength as it is located at a key location in our grid and will help SA meet our aspiration of net-100% renewable energy.”

“Big batteries are a key part of our strategy alongside the South Australia-New South Wales Interconnector and our home battery roll-out to strengthen our grid and deliver further savings for South Australian households and businesses.”

Other recently announced large-scale battery projects in Australia include the award of the 300MW “Victoria Big Battery” project to developer Neoen and tech provider Tesla by the government of that state and a potential 200MWh battery for a 500MW wind farm gaining planning approval from state government in Queensland. South Australia’s government also recently signed a large renewable energy supply contract for some of its own buildings that will ensure a 100MW battery project goes ahead.

While the proposing, planning and building of battery projects continues at pace, the country is also supporting hydrogen developments, recently “fast-tracking” a 26GW green hydrogen hub which could see the gas exported to other countries in Asia.    

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