A major hybrid renewable energy project proposed by French renewables developer Neoen has been given the green light by the South Australian state government. Located around 23 km southeast of Port Pirie and 3 km north of the town of the same name, Crystal Brook Energy Park is described as a 24/7 renewable energy generation facility.
The developer wants to build a 150 MW solar farm featuring 400,000‐500,000 solar panels mounted on single-axis trackers, a 125 MW wind farm with 26 turbines, a 130 MW/400 MWh lithium-ion energy storage facility, and associated infrastructure that will be connected to the national grid. The energy storage facility will be located on a separate site and connected to the wind park and solar farm via an underground transmission line comprising 33 kV cables.
Neoen’s Crystal Brook plans also involve up to 50 MW of on-site hydrogen production capability, or up to 25,000 kg per day. The hydrogen production facility did not form part of the proposal and is pending the outcome of a state government-backed feasibility study.
Welcoming the development approval news, Neoen said Crystal Brook Energy Park represents the next generation of clean energy in South Australia. “With this project, we look forward to building on the success of the Hornsdale Wind Farm and Power Reserve, which since commencing operations in 2017, has helped to stabilise the grid and saved South Australian consumers over $50 million,” said Garth Heron, head of development, Neoen Australia.
The project joins the ranks of a number of recently approved large-scale renewable energy generators and big batteries, as the South Australian state government seeks to move towards its 2030 “net 100% renewables” target and export excess power to other states. As revealed by Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, the state currently has some 10,000 MW of solar and wind generation on the drawing board.
“The Crystal Brook Energy Park will further strengthen the grid and generate low-cost and reliable power, ensuring we can keep the lights on and cut electricity bills for South Australian homes and businesses,” Heron said. “Changing the role of renewables, from just providing power when available to providing firm power 24-hours a day is essential for long-term sustainability, and this project will the first of its kind to offer that type of power service in Australia.”
Neoen has invested over A$1 billion ($677.3 million) in South Australia to date. With an investment of around A$500 million, Crystal Brook Energy Park will deliver 400 indirect jobs during construction with another 250 throughout the project’s service life, providing an economic boost to the Mid North region.
The energy hub will feature Australia’s tallest wind turbines, reaching 240 m high. Since this project feature was met with opposition from local communities, Neoen reduced the number of wind turbines originally proposed by more than 50% to 26. The developer says it stands ready to further work together with the locals.
“As a long-term community stakeholder, we are fully committed to ensuring the economic benefits from the project flow to local residents, workers and businesses,” Heron said. “As the project moves forwards, we are committed to ongoing engagement and consultation with all stakeholders and local residents.”
Support for the project also came from the state energy minister, who said the approval is evidence of the government’s determination to provide residents with cheaper and more reliable electricity. “The combined solar farm, wind farm and grid scale storage project is an exciting step towards getting the mix right in energy generation in South Australia,” van Holst Pellekaan said.
In 2018, South Australia’s renewable energy generation from wind and solar sources reached 51.2% of total electricity generation. Previously, the Australian Energy Market Operator projected the state’s renewable power could account for 73% of the state’s total power consumption by 2020/21.