Victorian Big Battery: Australia’s biggest battery storage system at 450MWh, is online

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The Victorian Big Battery in Geelong, Australia. Image: Victoria State government.

The Victorian Big Battery, a 300MW / 450MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS) in Australia, has been officially opened by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change for the state of Victoria. 

Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said her government was “proud to flick the switch on Australia’s biggest battery which will help protect our network in summer, support our renewable revolution and slash energy prices”.

The system will charge during the day when abundant renewable energy means electricity is cheap and will open up an additional 250MW of interconnection capacity to allow Victoria to import power from New South Wales at peak times — mainly during summers as alluded to by minister D’Ambrosio. 

A 250MW contract is in place with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) under the Victorian government’s System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS) to provide that automatic instant response that batteries are capable of. It will also participate in the National Electricity Market where it can provide grid services such as frequency response.

The government pointed out that batteries can perform a range of applications more quickly, more cleanly and ultimately cheaper in the long run than existing assets like gas-fired generation. Independent analysis has been quoted that predicts AU$2.40 (US$1.71) in benefits will be accrued to Victorian residents and businesses for every AU$1 invested in the battery system. 

Located next to Moorabool Terminal Station in the Victorian city of Geelong, the project has been developed by the local subsidiary of France-headquartered renewable power producer Neoen. As with Neoen’s two previous large-scale battery projects in Australia, Tesla BESS equipment has been used. Network provider AusNet Services also collaborated with the project partners.

The Victorian Big Battery system’s construction has been completed in under a year. It faced a late stage setback along the way when two Tesla Megapacks out of the more than 100 on site were destroyed by fire, just as the system was about to go into final testing before connection to the National Electricity Market (NEM) in July.

However, testing and pre-commissioning activities resumed in September after authorities and experts were satisfied it was safe to do so and that best practice advice had been applied and was being adhered to. 

The project achieved financial close in February this year as the Australian national Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) made a debt equity investment of AU$160 million into it alongside funding from Neoen. 

“Neoen’s battery is a fantastic achievement as Victoria transitions to our legislated targets of 50% renewables by 2030 and net zero by 2050,” Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said. 

At the beginning of this month, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) introduced new rules for participation in the NEM, aimed in part at reducing the barriers to investment in battery storage, although trade group Clean Energy Council and others were critical that network charges for use of the grid by battery systems were not eliminated.

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