Pioneering big battery key to future grid

·3-min read

South Australia's "big battery" has won approval to provide crucial services needed to secure a volatile electricity grid dominated by renewable energy.

After two years of trials, French energy firm Neoen announced on Wednesday the Hornsdale plant at Jamestown would be the first big battery to deliver grid-scale inertia services, maintaining stable power generation.

The approval from the Australian Energy Market Operator paves the way for AEMO's target of 100 per cent renewable power safely in the system at any given instant by 2025.

Neoen chair Xavier Barbaro said the company was keen to accelerate the transition to renewables in Australia, and around the world.

"We are proving that our assets can replace fossil fuels not only in the production and storage of electricity, but also through providing all the essential services that a power system needs to function," he said.

SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said Hornsdale was revolutionary when it was commissioned in 2017 and continues its pioneering role.

The "first for the world" demonstrates South Australia's commitment to global leadership in renewable energy to improve grid stability and energy reliability, while bringing power prices down, he said.

Inertia services needed to maintain system security in the national electricity market have been provided by coal and gas generators up until now, but the grid is being geared up for a fossil fuel phase-out.

Inertia is a by-product of electricity generation, and works like a shock absorber to deal with bumps in supply.

Certain levels of inertia are required to maintain the secure operation of the power system.

But market regulators have been concerned that the changing generation mix, with more wind and solar, means the power system has less inertia.

Less system inertia means frequency may become volatile, causing a high risk of blackouts.

The Hornsdale plant was the first investment in a standalone grid-scale battery by Australia's green bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The corporation's boss Ian Learmonth said the approval for inertia services was another important milestone for Neoen, further building confidence in the clean energy grid of the future.

"Hornsdale Power Reserve is an outstanding demonstration of the market-changing role of large-scale batteries in the race to net zero emissions," he said.

The project was also granted $5 million from the South Australian government's grid-scale energy storage fund and $8 million from the federal Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The agency's chief executive Darren Miller said Hornsdale demonstrates the full technical capabilities of what batteries can achieve.

"Improving the economics of energy storage is going to be key in our transition to high shares of renewable electricity," he said.

Neoen will use Tesla's Virtual Machine Mode technology at the 150-megawatt plant, now Australia's second largest lithium-ion battery, to provide inertia services to the South Australian part of the grid.

"It is leading the innovation of inverter-based technologies, paving the way for more, much-needed large-scale storage projects both in Australia and beyond," Mr Koutsantonis said.

The state's facility was trumped last year by Victoria's new big battery in Geelong, also developed by Neoen and Tesla, which has double the capacity of Hornsdale.

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