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Western Australia awards key contracts for 2.8GWh of BESS to CATL, Power Electronics

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Suppliers of equipment to two landmark battery storage projects in Western Australia (WA) have been awarded contracts worth more than a billion dollars from the state’s government.

Western Australian Premier Roger Cook and Minister for Mines, Petroleum and Energy Bill Johnston said in a joint statement this morning that China’s CATL and US-headquartered Power Electronics have been selected for the state’s projects in the regions of Kwinana and Collie.

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Both will be among the most significant battery energy storage system (BESS) assets in all of Australia terms of size when complete, and will add to recently completed projects in their respective areas. They are also notable in being located in historic mining areas with close ties to coal, representing WA’s energy transition both symbolically as well as literally.

The system at Collie will be 500MW/2000MWh, which is perhaps an early example of the Australian market adopting four-hour duration lithium-ion BESS technology.

With construction already having begun a few months ago in June, it is likely to be not just Western Australia’s biggest BESS but also the second biggest in Australia after the Waratah Super Battery, which at 850MW/1680MWh is currently in construction in New South Wales.

Meanwhile Kwinana Battery Energy Storage System 2 (KBESS 2), as the other project will be known, follows on from KBESS 1, which reached the operational testing phase in May ahead of full commercial operation when updates were last offered by its owner, state-owned utility company Synergy.

KBESS 1 is the current holder of the title for Western Australia’s biggest BESS asset at 100MW/200MWh. KBESS 2 will be 200MW/800MWh.

Western Australia is on a separate grid network and therefore separate electricity market to most of the other major Australian states, which are in the National Electricity Market (NEM) on the eastern and southern part of the country.

That means the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which the two new projects will connect to, has far less flexibility to play with in terms of balancing the network, with states in the NEM able to call on large-scale BESS assets as far and wide as South Australia to Queensland, with Victoria and NSW in between.

The government committed financially to the two new projects in May as it announced its budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

CATL, by some measures still the biggest lithium battery manufacturer in the world, will supply its EnerC complete liquid cooled containerised battery storage solution to both projects, and Power Electronics will provide inverters and power conversion system (PCS) technology, also to both.

KBESS 2’s estimated completion date is the end of 2024, while an expected or estimated completion date was not given for the Collie project in today’s ministerial release.

“These contracts, worth more than AU$1 billion (US$650 million), represent a major and important investment by our government into WA’s cleaner, reliable and affordable energy future. Battery energy storage systems will play a key role in our decarbonisation plans, storing excess renewable energy generated in the day and discharging during times of high demand,” Cook said, adding that the projects are among government initiatives and AU$2.8 billion investment in turning the state into a “global green energy superpower”.

Read more coverage of BESS development and industry activities in Australia’s South West Interconnected System here.

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