A huge $1bn solar farm and battery project will be built and ready to operate in South Australia’s Riverland region by the end of the year. The battery storage developer Lyon Group says the system will be the biggest of its kind in the world, boasting 3.4m solar panels and 1.1m batteries. The company says construction will start in months and the project will be built whatever the outcome of the SA government’s tender for a large battery to store renewable energy. A Lyon Group partner, David Green, says the system, financed by investors and built on privately owned scrubland in Morgan. “The combination of the solar and the battery will significantly enhance the capacity available in the South Australian market,” he said.
[Read more here and some background here]
The hamlet of Morgan is on the Murray River, about 100 kilometres north-east of Adelaide. Lyon Group has started building a similar installation at Roxby Downs, 300 or so kilometres north of Adelaide.
A couple of points:
- This will be the world's largest battery installation to date.
- These two battery banks (Roxby Downs/Kingfisher and Riverland) will be in addition to any batteries installed as a result of the tender the South Australian government has initiated.
- Combining wind and solar produces a more stable electricity output. For example, wind often is stronger at night, when there is no sun. Solar output is "smoother" during the day than wind, especially from a number of geographically spread solar farms. South Australia gets 40% of its electricity from wind, and only 5% from solar. Increasing the solar percentage would make the supply more even and the grid more stable, especially when there is strong demand on very hot days, when everybody's aircon is running.
- This will take only a few months to complete. Construction will be finished by the end of the year. Compare this to conventional power stations.
- The battery banks by themselves will not be nearly enough to provide for peak SA demand in the late afternoon. But (a) they're a (small) step towards having enough stored power in the evening to dispense with gas peaking plants and (b) batteries can provide other very important grid services: frequency control (keeping the grid frequency at 50 hertz) and voltage stabilisation. Unlike gas peaker plants which take 7 or 8 seconds to fire up, the response of batteries is virtually instantaneous.
- Although the cost of solar panels is being reduced by the values of the Large Scale Generation Certificates created as part of the government' RET (renewable energy target) the battery banks are profitable in themselves. This is the first time that's been true in Australia at this scale.
- In future, probably all new wind and solar farms will have complementary battery storage because it will allow their owners to sell their electricity more profitably. For example, now, there are times late at night when the wind is blowing strongly that wholesale electricity prices in South Australia go negative, and other times (late afternoon on a hot day) when the wholesale electricity price is 1000 times higher than the long-term average.
- All these recent developments show conclusively that South Australia will easily be able to reach 100% renewables in their grid within 10 years (5% a year from now on.)
- This is the end of coal. And of the dishonest story from the Right that only coal can provide us with energy security.
- Coincidentally, today the giant Hazelwood power station in Victoria is closing down. It used to provide 25% of Victoria's electricity and 5% of the nation's and was the most polluting power station in the world (it burnt brown coal or lignite.) Australia's solar resources are among the best in the world. New solar PV plus storage will quickly fill the gap caused by Hazelwood's closure.