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NSW government tenders for 1,400MWh BESS in coal plant retirement plan

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The state government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia is opening up a competitive procurement process for Waratah Super Battery, a 700MW/1,400MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) project. 

The battery system will be built to increase electric transmission system capacity across the state, serving as a giant ‘shock absorber’ for the grid and allowing power lines to operate at higher capacity.

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It is part of a plan to ease the network’s adaptation to life after the closure of Eraring coal power plant, a 2,880MW generation station that owner Origin Energy has proposed closing down in 2025. 

Integrated energy company Origin has said that retiring the plant will free up dozens of millions of dollars it spends on operating Eraring each year as well as aiding the company’s decarbonisation efforts.

Origin is itself building a separate 700MW BESS as well as aggressively expanding its virtual power plant (VPP) network to as much as 2GW to replace the coal plant’s lost capacity, as well as leaning on its fleet of gas plants to help balance the network as renewable energy penetration goes up.  

NSW’s government meanwhile issued a plan back in February to support workers and create new jobs after Eraring closes: investing AU$250 million (US$186.9 million) to boost locally manufactured content in clean energy technologies, build up the green hydrogen industry and fast-track the delivery of critical transmission upgrades.

The Waratah Super Battery will go towards providing reliable and affordable electricity, particularly as it will increase the transmission capacity across NSW to demand centre areas like Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Transmission constraints prevent existing generation capacity being made available in those areas during peak times. Lines operate at strict limits below their capacity in case of shocks to the system, such as lightning strikes or bushfires. The BESS can therefore step in and instead act to absorb that shock, leaving the lines capable of carrying more electrons. 

NSW government said that its Energy Security Target policy provides a roadmap to ensuring reliability of electricity and that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has said its post-Eraring plan, including the Waratah BESS, will be sufficient to meet the target’s standards. 

“The Waratah Super Battery will allow for more electricity to flow through the network, unlocking this excess capacity and supplying the families and businesses of NSW a reliable and stable energy supply,” NSW treasurer and energy minister Matt Kean said.

The battery project will need to be in service before the coal plant closes in 2025, with the government open to proposals on any suitable site, which could include state-owned land.

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo) kicks off its launch of the procurement with a Market Forum event on 31 March, with the Expressions of Interest to be solicited from the beginning of April. 

The tender will be evaluated from August to October before award and contracts are announced in November. 

Interested parties can see the EnergyCo portal for the tender here.

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