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Queensland’s largest utility-scale battery storage system begins commercial operations

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A 100MW/150MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) has been brought online in Queensland, Australia, by developer Vena Energy.

Vena Energy said this morning that it has commenced commercial operation of the Wandoan South BESS project in Queensland’s Darling Downs agricultural region, about 400km from Brisbane.

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The Singapore-headquartered developer, which focuses on renewable energy and storage assets in the Asia-Pacific region, signed a 15-year contract to hand over operational dispatch rights for the battery system to major Australian energy generator-retailer AGL in January 2020.

At that time, AGL CEO Brett Redman said that with the signing of the deal, construction and could proceed over an expected 15-month period, Energy-Storage.news reported. Including commissioning, in total the process has taken 18 months.

Towards the end of 2020, Vena achieved financial close, citing the project’s expected total cost at AU$120 million, while naming South Korean company Doosan GridTech as the Wandoan South BESS project’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner.

The battery system will enable AGL to leverage surplus solar PV and wind generation from Queensland, storing it and then releasing it at times when generation from renewables isn’t as high, as well kicking in when other forms of generation are offline too. It is connected to the Wandoan South substation of transmission operator PowerLink.

“This is important for providing security to the energy market and avoiding system constraints, particularly in areas like the Darling Downs with a large local load and the potential for a high renewable energy build over the coming decade,” AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof said.

“Now that it is fully operational, we’re very pleased to be able to offer our customers secure, reliable, clean energy with the addition of the Wandoan South BESS. Storage projects like the Wandoan South BESS will enable AGL to leverage excess solar generation in Queensland and provide capacity when the AGL’s Cooper’s Gap Wind Farm in Queensland is not generating or when the energy market needs it.”

While it is now home to one of Australia’s largest battery projects (the largest at the time of writing is the 300MW/450MWh Victorian Big Battery in Victoria), Queensland was third among Australian states for hosting commercial and grid-scale BESS capacity according to market consultancy Sunwiz in a report published in March.

It was fifth of the seven states for total battery storage deployments including the residential segment and Sunwiz noted much lower rates of attachment for storage to solar PV in Queensland.

Historically the country’s highest emissions state, Queensland is however now targeting more aggressive reductions goals than before, 30% reductions against 2005 levels, while also aiming to reach 50% renewable electricity by 2030.

In June, the state government announced it would be helping to fund a “blitz” of battery storage buildout, including 12 individual systems of 8MWh each and one 200MW/400MWh project. A few months before that, Queensland government-owned power generation company CS Energy said it is developing a 100MW/200MWh battery project at a former coal power plant site in the Western Downs administrative region, not far from the Wandoan South project.

At the time the latter project was announced, Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the state government needed to step in and invest in clean energy including batteries where the national government had failed to do so. That administration, led by Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party, has since been ousted in a general election and replaced by new prime minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor Party, which ran partly on a platform of ending government level climate change denial, as the Liberal stance was perceived.

More recently, de Brenni hailed the incorporation of emissions reduction objectives into Australia’s energy market planning, which has been agreed this month by all states will happen going forwards. Queensland’s government had been pushing for this step, the minister said, calling it “a clear and direct signal to the entire nation as well as the global community that everyone is now working together in this new energy era”.

“The energy sector is Queensland’s largest carbon emitter and has a significant role to play in accelerating our path towards net zero emissions,” de Brenni said.

“At the same time, we are continuing to keep downward pressure on power prices and driving the transition to renewable generation and storage.”  

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