Australia commissions first big battery at a former coal site


From pv magazine Australia

One of Australia’s most historic coal hubs, Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, has today seen the commissioning of the nation’s first big battery to go into operations within a former coal site. The 150 MW/150 MWh battery was jointly funded and developed by French energy giant Engie and Eku Energy, the battery storage platform of Macquarie Group.

The Hazelwood battery is believed to be Australia’s largest privately funded utility-scale battery to date.

The commissioning of the Hazelwood battery brings Australia to its first gigawatt of installed battery storage, Energy Synapse founder Marija Petkovic recently pointed out.

Hazelwood’s battery facility has been supplied, and will be operated and maintained, by US-headquartered firm Fluence. The project is the first to use Fluence’s Gridstack battery system, which the company says is built for the “most demanding applications” including flexible peaking capacity, and frequency regulation. The facility incorporates 342 modular Fluence Cubes.

While the battery currently only has one hour of duration, it is believed the project will eventually grow – following a broader trend in Australia towards supersized batteries. “With [the battery’s] access to transmission and available space at site, Hazelwood is the perfect location for an asset that can grow in depth and duration, increasing the hosting capacity for renewables,” Engie’s Australian CEO, Rik De Buyserie, said. 

The Hazelwood site is reported to have access to 1.6 GW of dormant transmission capacity.

The coal-fired Hazelwood Power Station was built in the 1960s and closed in 2017, giving just five months notice before its retirement. Power prices in Victoria soared as a consequence, and the debacle led to state governments to impose much stricter rules around notice periods of generation retirements.

While Hazelwood is the first coal-site battery to come into operation, it belongs within a much larger movement. Coal plants are ideal sites for big batteries thanks to their grid connection and existing infrastructure, and there are a huge number of retired and retiring coal plants today which either have big batteries in construction or planning. 

In the Latrobe Valley alone, AGL is constructing a 200 MW/800 MWh battery at its Loy Yang power station. Meanwhile, EnergyAustralia is planing 350 MW/1.4 GWh big battery at Yallourn coal-fired power station, set to retire by mid-2028.

“The Latrobe Valley has been the home of Victoria’s energy generation for decades and new investment in technologies like energy storage this will help solidify its role in our renewable energy future,” Victoria’s Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said.

She opened the Hazelwood battery on Wednesday, saying the project plays a key role in achieving Victoria’s energy storage targets of at least 2.6 GW of storage capacity by 2030 and at least 6.3 GW by 2035.

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