Queensland state budget funds battery storage buildout ‘blitz’

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Queensland, Australia, needs energy storage and the state government has identified batteries as the fastest way to add it to the electricity network.

The government said on Friday that it is funding the rollout of 13 separate large-scale battery storage projects. A state minister described as a “battery blitz” which will create up to 336 local construction-related jobs.

Out of those, 12 will be sized at up to 8MWh capacity each, but state-owned companies will also build a 400MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) that will be Queensland’s largest to date.

While Queensland’s state budget, announced last week, includes support for two large-scale pumped hydro plants, battery storage can be deployed much more quickly, Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said.

Greenbank, the 400MWh project, “will be a game-changer in the way we operate the grid and will be critical for soaking up our sunshine and wind to feed into the system when Queenslanders need it,” according to deBrenni.

It will be built by transmission system operator Powerlink and utility CS Energy, both owned by the government. The project will be sited at the 275kV Greenbank transmission substation which opened in 2006 about 42km from Brisbane.

Powerlink said the BESS will be 200MW output alongside its 400MWh capacity, with construction expected to begin next year and take about a year and a half to complete.

Earlier this year, CS Energy also committed to the deployment of a 100MW/200MWh BESS near Chinchilla, a town in Queensland’s Western Downs region. That project will be part of a green energy hub at the site of CS Energy’s Kogan Creek coal mine and coal power plant alongside a green hydrogen demonstration facility.  

“Adding firm, fast-start generation assets to our portfolio will enable us to more effectively respond to changing demand in the National Electricity Market,” CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills said.

A feasibility study is also being conducted for the possibility of a 300MWh BESS project at CS Energy’s Stanwell coal plant, Energy-Storage.news reported last June.

The 12 other projects mentioned in a joint statement from ministers will be built by another state-owned entity, Energy Queensland, which is involved in electricity distribution, retail and energy services. The group has already completed five other battery storage projects

At a recent national Energy Ministers Meeting, the consensus among the forum was that the delivery of more renewables and storage will be the best way to mitigate the impacts of global energy market challenges on Australia’s own market, de Brenni said.

Queensland wants to maximise use of renewable energy

Queensland has historically been the highest emissions-producing Australian state and has lagged on climate policies but is targeting 50% renewable energy by 2030, coupled with a 30% reduction in emissions against 2005 levels by that time. It has already surpassed the 20% renewable energy mark.

The state has some of the highest levels of rooftop solar uptake in the world, Treasurer Cameron Dick said, and large-scale battery projects like Greenbank “allow us to capture the energy generated by Queenslanders, and best use it for Queenslanders,” Dick said.

In 2021 however, the state only accounted for just 8% of Australia’s total battery storage market including all segments from residential to grid-scale, while it placed third for utility-scale battery storage installed capacity among states as of the end of last year, according to research from solar market consultancy SunWiz.

In other developments from Queensland, a proposal for a fossil fuel peaker plant filed by Quinbrook Asset Management was radically altered from a planned 1,000MW of gas turbines to instead couple just 150MW of turbines with battery storage. That revision earned the project the development approval green light from Queensland’s Planning and Environment Court (P&E Court) in April.

The state government also said earlier this month that it is putting A$48 million (US$33.2 million) into feasibility studies and other development assistance to progress two potential new pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) plants, including one at Borumba Dam reservoir, water treatment and irrigation facility.

This would be in addition to Kidston Stage 2, a PHES plant currently under construction by developer Genex Power – which incidentally is also building a 100MWh BESS facility as well as large-scale solar and wind in the state – Australia’s first new PHES since the early 1980s.

The last one built before that, Wivenhoe pumped storage plant, is also in Queensland. A recent report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) found that due to extreme electricity price volatility, Wivenhoe’s utilisation in Q1 2022 was 551% increased from the same period last year, helping drive record quarterly high spot market revenues for Australia’s fleet of PHES plants.

“This week’s budget backs nation-building, game-changing pumped hydro storage projects in Kidston and Borumba, but batteries are the form of storage we can get into the network the fastest,” Minister de Brenni said, highlighting that the 400MWh Greenbank BESS brings the government’s commitment to investing in batteries up to more than 720MW of projects.

Queensland’s government, led by premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and the Queensland Australian Labor Party, announced its 2022-2023 state budget on 21 June, including provisions for progressive coal royalties, committing power plant operators to pay higher fees back to the state for periods of increased profits.

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