The Torrens Island battery is AGL Energy’s first grid-scale storage project. It will be built at the company’s gas plant, where it will continue to provide electricity as the fossil-fuel run turbines are retired.
The AUD 180 million ($131.8 million) battery isn’t Australia's largest and only has one hour of storage (it is expected to expand to four hours). However, the project will be the largest in the world with grid-forming capacity, and will undoubtedly be observed within Australia and internationally.
The system, to be delivered by Wärtsilä, will initially operate in the usual grid-following mode, meaning that the output synchronizes to the grid’s voltage waveform. It will then be switched into the more novel grid-forming mode, making it capable of providing the grid with “virtual inertia.”
System strength services and inertia have traditionally been the realm of spinning mass fossil-fuel driven turbines, but grid-forming projects hold promise as a clean substitute.
Their virtual inertia is provided by grid-forming inverters, which in this project will be provided by Germany's SMA. Also known as virtual synchronous generation, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently identified grid-forming technology as a top priority because of the crucial role it expects the technology will play in the clean energy transition.
While large-scale demonstrations of grid-forming storage like Torrens Island are not yet in operation, Australia has already had some success with the technology on a smaller scale. Its triumphs include the 30 MW/8 MWh Dalrymple Battery Energy Storage System, which is currently the only source of virtual inertia in the National Electricity Market.
Storage systems with grid-forming inverters independently set their internal frequency and speed, making them able to form an islanded grid by generating a frequency reference. In other words, they can continue to provide power to the network if the main grid goes down – something systems without that technology cannot do.
News of the grid-forming plans for Torren Island follows a decision by South Australia transmission provider ElectraNet to deploy two synchronous condensers in the state, with another two in the works. The primary role of these spinning machines is also to provide system strength and inertia. However, in comparison to grid-forming inverters, the solution appears to be far less flexible and unable to offer multiple services.
SMA said it will supply 109 Medium Voltage Power Stations (MVPS-SCS4200) to Wärtsilä for Torrens Island project. It said its “MVPS-SCS4200” platform is a turnkey solution for large storage systems. With the new, robust battery central inverters Sunny Central Storage UP and coordinated medium-voltage components, the turnkey solution offers more power density, it added. The complex system is also supported by the GEMS Power Plant Controller and energy management software from Wärtsilä.
“The Torrens Island project has huge implications globally; Australia is among the leading countries in the world when it comes to high levels of renewable energy feeding into the grid at particular times of the day,” said Joshua Birmingham, director of large-scale and project solutions at SMA Australia.
AGL Energy has committed to build 850 MW of battery-based assets by 2024. To that end, Torrens Island marks the first project to be constructed at the site of a fossil-fuel power plant. It won’t be the last, however, as big batteries are planned for New South Wale’s Liddell coal plant and Victoria’s Loy Yang facility.
In January, AGL Energy revealed that it had secured both Wärtsilä and Fluence under non-exclusive framework agreements to supply up to 1 GW of large-scale battery storage.
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