Large-scale solar PV slows as big battery investment takes off – pv magazine Australia

Renewable energy developers in Australia have turned their attention to energy storage, with investments in utility-scale batteries increasing more than 300% in the past three months. However, this has been offset by a worrying decline in the number of large-scale solar power PV and wind projects are reaching financial close.

May 26, 2021

New figures released by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) show that financial commitments for new utility-scale battery projects in Australia will quadruple between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 from 150 MW to 600 MW in the first three months of this year to have.

“Big batteries have come of age and investors are realizing the increasing competitiveness of costs and the role they play in ensuring energy security and supporting renewable energy across Australia,” said Kane Thornton, CEO of KEK.

“The projects committed this quarter represent a 300% increase in committed large energy storage capacity compared to Q4 2020 and an investment of $ 400 million to $ 450 million.”

The dramatic increase in new investment in utility-scale batteries comes with financial commitments on large solar PV and wind projects that have slowed to their lowest levels in the past five years.

The KEK said only one major renewable energy project was financially committed in the first quarter of 2021.

The New England solar farm in Uralla, New South Wales, was financially committed in the first quarter of 2021. The new output of 400 MW was 45% below the previous quarter and 30% below the quarterly average of 2020.

“This is a deeply worrying trend as the pace of global energy transition slows down Australia’s promise as a superpower in renewable energy,” said Thornton.

“Confidence in new investments in this sector is really in limbo right now.

“With projects, there are considerable and often unexpected delays during the grid connection process. As we saw last week with the announcement of a new high-gas power plant in Kurri Kurri, state intervention in the energy market is increasing the uncertainty for investors. “

The first work on the first 400 MW phase of the New England Solar Farm has already started with the joint venture UPC / AC Renewables Australia (UPC Renewables and AC Energy), which confirms that the main contractor Elecnor is already starting the early work on its Subsidiary Green Light Contractors, including substation, has started and road design.

The New England Solar Farm will eventually become a 720 MW solar PV system combined with an on-site 400 MWh battery storage system.

The developers are confident that the first phase of the project will be connected to the National Energy Market (NEM) by July 2022 and produce clean solar energy. The preliminary date for the commissioning of the entire project is the end of 2023.

The first phase of the project also includes 50 MW / 50 MWh lithium-ion battery storage.

The KEK said the New England Battery was one of three major battery projects expected to close financially in the first quarter of 2021.

Neoen has also secured a financial deal for the 300 MW / 450 MWh Victoria Big Battery storage under development near Geelong, while energy giant AGL has begun construction of the 250 MW / 250 MWh Torrens Island battery in South Australia .

In addition to the projects that are expected to have reached financial completion, at least 15 other large battery storage projects have been announced this year, according to KEK, with a capacity of more than 6.6 GW and investments of USD 4.3 billion.

The introduction of large battery projects comes after the KEK recently published an analysis of the costs of battery technologies as a provider of important peaking services for the national grid and found that these are already competing financially with conventional gas peakers to provide the grid support services.

“Large batteries are now without a doubt the best option for meeting times of high electricity demand,” said Thornton.

“Batteries can offer a premium peaking service in times of high demand that are traditionally met by peaking gas systems. Batteries can boot up quickly, have a startup time close to zero, and offer better frequency response.

“In this respect, the performance of large batteries is unmatched.”

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