Tesla’s 129 MWh Hornsdale battery in South Australia was the biggest grid-scale battery in the world when it went into service two years ago. Now Neoen, the French company that operates the Hornsdale facility, says it will increase the capacity of the system by 50% to 150 MW/193.5 MWh.
Scott Morrison, the idiot in chief who happens to be Australia’s prime minister at the moment, was highly dismissive of the Hornsdale project when it first proposed, saying that calling it the world’s biggest battery was a “Hollywood solution” with no more importance than being able to say Australia has the world’s biggest banana or biggest prawn. Nonetheless, the expansion is being financed in part by the Australian government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation to the tune of $8 million.
ABC News reports that Energy Minister Angus Taylor has confirmed the investment by the federal government. In a statement, he said the larger battery would improve response times on the worst days – when demand was at its highest, the wind was not blowing and the sun was not shining. “Projects like this, combined with the gas and pumped hydro projects that are coming online, are extremely important to the future integration of renewable energy to the South Australian grid.”
$50 Million Saved First Year
When the Hornsdale battery first went into service, Neoen reserved some of its output to provide services to help stabilize the electricity grid. Because the battery is able to respond to changes in the voltage or frequency of the electricity flowing across the grid in milliseconds, it can stabilize the grid continuously and much faster than it would take to bring a peaker plant online, which saves everyone money. Neoen claims the Hornsdale battery saved energy consumers more than $50 million in the battery’s first year of operation.
The government of South Australia is committing $15 million to the project as well. The upgrade is expected to be completed by the middle of 2020. Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Energy Minister for South Australia tells ABC News that increasing the size of the Hornsdale battery will result in a more secure and affordable power supply for the state.
“We know that the 100 megawatt capacity of the existing Hornsdale battery has saved South Australian electricity consumers $40 million per year since its inception. This 50 per cent increase in capacity to the battery, plus the additional services that we will receive, will add an additional $47 million per year of savings to South Australia electricity consumers.
“The savings to the cost of the wholesale electricity will then, a year [or] two down the track, flow through to the retail costs that consumers pay. We have in the past had blackouts in South Australia, because we’ve had an insufficient quantity of electricity to make demand. But we’ve also in the past had blackouts because the quality of the electricity has not been good enough. [The expansion] means that the wholesale power reserve will be able to increase or decrease frequency, increase or decrease voltage as necessary within milliseconds so that we can keep the quality to 240 volt 50 hertz supply, exactly where it needs to be.”
Tom Koutsantonis, opposition energy spokesperson, excoriated Scott Morrison for his puerile drivel when the project was first announced. The decision to increase the size of the battery by 50% is “a vindication that when South Australians work together, we can come up with breakthrough solutions. I hope the Prime Minister recognizes that by criticizing the big battery as nothing more than a Big Banana or a Big Pineapple … that those type of demeaning remarks towards this cut-through technology doesn’t serve the nation. A lot of the other states are still grappling with that transition, South Australia did it before everyone else. That’s why I think we’re ahead of the game,” he said.
Ancillary Grid Services
The larger battery could replicate some of the features of a traditional coal or gas power station, further supporting the growth of renewable energy in South Australia. That state is a world leader in wind energy but the electricity is sometimes curtailed due to limitations imposed by the local electrical grid. It was constrained big time when high winds toppled many of the pylons supporting high voltage transmission lines in South Australia and the interconnector that ties its utility grid to that of neighboring Victoria.
South Australia has one of the highest amounts of installed wind power in the world but production is often curtailed because of technical limitations to the grid. The larger battery will reduce those curtailments and could promote increased power flow across the interconnector. That would help lower spot prices in both states and lower utility bills for people and businesses in both jurisdictions.