Australian news outlets reported in late March that the government of New South Wales (NSW) had formally commenced the tender process for the 700MW/1,400MWh Waratah Super Battery. The first stage of the tender process is to find potential project developers and project sites.
The purpose of the Waratah Super Battery is to enlarge the capacity of the state grid system and allow more electricity to flow through the main transmission lines. Furthermore, it will help stabilize the operation of the grid system and reduce the risk sudden disruptions in electricity supply. Matt Kean, NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister, said that the battery energy storage plant will be useful in dealing with the effects of bushfires and lighting strikes on the grid system.
The project was announced this February after regional power company Origin Energy notified that it will fast track the decommissioning of its 2,880MW coal-fired Eraring Power Station located at Lake Macquarie in NSW. The coal-fired power plant is now set to shut down in 2025, seven years earlier than originally planned.
It is worth noting that the Eraring Power Station is the largest of the 16 coal-fired power plants that are operating in Australia’s National Energy Market. It is also Origin Energy’s last coal-fired power plant. There is a plan to close all of them by 2051. Origin Energy said that the decision to bring forward the closure of the power plant aligns with the company’s aim of achieving carbon neutrality and will save millions of dollars in operating cost. Going forward, Origin Energy will build up its generation capacity based on natural gas, renewable energy, and energy storage in order to compensate for the loss of coal-fired generation. Additionally, there are reports that Origin Energy is planning to set up another battery energy storage plant that is separate from the Waratah Super Battery.
The Waratah Super Battery is intended to replace the coal-fired power plant. With a capacity of 700MW/1,400MWh, it is reportedly the largest standby network battery that is under development in the Southern Hemisphere. As a part of a virtual power plant (VPP) scheme, the scale of the Waratah Super Battery could expand further to 2GW.
The initial investment in the Waratah Super Battery will be provided by the NSW government. Details have yet to be revealed about the exact location of the plant, the amount of investment, and the long-term operation model.
At the same time, the NSW government is ramping up investments in the development of a Renewable Energy Zone. It also announced in February that it will invest AUD 250 million (USD 186.9 million) into projects related to the localization of the manufacturing of renewable generation equipment, the development of a green hydrogen industry, and the upgrade of the regional electric power infrastructure. Activities in the Renewable Energy Zone are expected to create new employment opportunities that can offset the job loss caused by the phase-out of traditional thermal power plants.
Currently, cities including Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong are the main load centers in NSW. Therefore, new energy storage plants are needed to maximize transmission capacity and provide affordable electricity to meet the demand from end users in these cities.
Kean added that grid-scale battery energy storage systems enable greater access to the existing sources of electricity generation. He said that giant batteries can “act as a shock absorber” because they provide a reserve to mitigate power supply disruptions caused by lightning strikes, bushfires etc. They also save costs on upgrading transmission lines.
Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which manages the country’s electricity and natural gas markets, said that energy storage plants such as the Waratah Super Battery will free up more existing electricity generation in NSW and help the state meet its energy security target at the time of the closure of the Eraring Power Station.
Kean further commented that by expanding the transmission capacity of the regional grid and allowing the full utilization of renewable generation assets, the Waratah Super Battery will guarantee a reliable and stable supply of electricity for homes and businesses in the state.
The Waratah Super Battery will have to enter operation before the shutdown of the Eraring Power Station in 2025, so the NSW government is considering numerous site options and willing to provide government-owned land.
According to the recently publicized tender schedule for the Waratah Super Battery, the Energy Corporation of New South Wales (EnergyCo) will first hold a virtual market forum on March 31 to give a presentation to interested parties. Then, interested parties will have to register for the opportunity to submit an expression of interest (EOI) by April 1. The EOI submission deadline is set on May 2, and the invitation to tender will take place between June and July. Bids will be evaluated during the period from August to October. And finally, tender award and contract arrangement will take place in November.