AGL went a mega-step last week toward achieving its goal of 850 MW of new large-scale battery storage by fiscal 2024, with the announcement of a 250 MW, four-hour-duration battery system to be built in stages on the site of its Torrens Island Power Station in South Australia.
The state government said it is “fast-tracking this huge battery by granting a planning exemption to AGL.” It is acknowledging the stability that such storage capacity – 100 MW larger than the groundbreaking Hornsdale Power Reserve – could add to the South Australian grid.
The third and fourth turbines of AGL’s Torrens Island gas-fired plant are scheduled to be shut down in 2021 and 2022, respectively, in favor of AGL’s more advanced technology at neighboring Barker Inlet Power Station. South Australian Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the strategic location of the new battery could help the state meet its aspirations of net-100% renewable energy by 2030.
Despite a decline in after-tax profit in the year to June 2020 of 22% – due to lower wholesale energy prices associated with increases in rooftop solar, the costs of Covid-19 and a major unplanned outage of AGL’s Loy Yang coal-fired power station in Victoria — CEO Brett Redman said AGL is “getting on with the business of energy transition” with its investment in the Torrens Island battery installation.
He said the planned new South Australian battery energy storage system (BESS) will allow “a rapid response to changes in renewable generation when our customers and communities need it.” However, the company has not yet committed to a completion date for the system.
Although energy prices are decreasing, AGL Chief Operating Officer Markus Brokhof said that “AGL’s strategy is to optimise dispatchable generation, support investment in firmed renewables and continue to invest in the accelerating emergence of batteries and other energy storage technologies.”
It also has plans to build a battery of greater capacity – 500 MW – adjacent to its Liddell coal-fired power plant in New South Wales, which is scheduled to be retired from operation in 2023. The Liddell battery will supply essential stabilizing services to the grid as the state ramps up its plans to replace its reliance on coal-fired generators with renewable energy zones (REZs) that integrate solar and wind generation with storage, transmission improvements and co-located energy-hungry industries.
Grid-scale batteries are “most helpful for pumping massive amounts of electricity within milliseconds into the grid, or the opposite – sucking it out – and that helps control the flow of electricity in the grid,” said Van Holst Pellekaan.
Virtual power play
AGL has been a leader in its use of new technologies, such as those used to connect and operate virtual power plants (VPPs), to manage the flow of electricity from an ever-growing fleet of rooftop PV systems.
In June 2019 it announced plans to offer its customers in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland the opportunity to sign up to its residential battery program and register for participation in a BYO-battery VPP, that would allow AGL to orchestrate the many distributed generation and storage systems for the benefit of customers and the grid.
“We believe battery technology is now at a level that allows AGL to lead in Australia’s transition to a smarter and more efficient energy future;” said Brokhof.
His statement aligned with a new report by the Clean Energy Council that found investments in large-scale batteries had doubled on the back of falling costs of the technology in the 12 months to the end of the first quarter of this year.
CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton, underscored the value of batteries for smoothing the variability of wind and solar generation and providing critical system services such as fast frequency response: “There is no other technology that can respond as quickly as batteries to changing frequency on the energy system,” he said.
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