Author: Giles Parkinson


Irish company DP Energy has announced a major expansion of its Port Augusta hybrid renewable energy park in South Australia, adding in another 300MW of solar and 400MW of battery storage to its plans for what was already going to be the biggest hybrid plant in Australia.

Barely a week after Sanjeev Gupta announced a 1GW project to use solar, pumped hydro and battery storage, and demand management to supply the Whyalla steelworks and other major energy users, DP Energy has gone one step further.

It has signed up Downer Group and Vestas as its preferred contractors for the previously canvassed 375MW first phase, which will combine 225MW of wind and 150MW of solar near Port Augusta.

But it has also flagged plans to add a further 300MW of solar PV and 400MW of battery storage (it has yet to configure the actual MWh of storage) in a phase two project “across the road”.

That will make a total of 1,075MW, and it may also include 3,000 megawatt seconds of synchronous condensors to ensure the market operator has enough “synchronous” capacity for its needs.

The two mega projects join a series of other projects at the top end of the Spencer Gulf, including the 220MW Bungala solar project, the 212MW Lincoln Gap wind project and the 150MW Aurora solar tower and storage project that will effectively double the amount of wind and solar capacity already in the state.

Other projects, such as the 100MW Tailem Bend solar project are also under construction or about to be built. Together, these projects effectively double the amount of renewables in the state, which is already accounting for nearly 50 per cent of its local generation.

The difference with these mega projects is that they are coming with storage attached, and at least two other pumped hydro projects and two battery storage facilities are also being built (Tesla big battery and Wattle Point).

DP Energy admitted that the project was not yet contracted, nor had it reached financial close. But its intent was clear with the appointment of Downer.

“This project will happen,” development manager Catherine Way told RenewEconomy. “When the facility is fully complete the end result has the potential to be a game changer for energy production and provision in Australia.”

DP Energy says a big attraction of their first stage hybrid project was its ability to provide significant amount of power in the early evening, at the time of peak demand.

“The wind farm will be producing at maximum strength at the peak of local electricity demand. This will be further complemented by high levels of solar power generation. Matching supply with demand ensures maximum efficiency and reliability.

“By combining the wind energy which ramps up during the day to the evening peak with solar energy which peaks in the middle of the day, the combined generation profile closely matches South Australia’s demand profile,” the company says.

It is one of a number of wind-solar hybrids being built, including the White Rock and Gullen Range projects in NSW and the Kennedy project in Queenslands, although the Kennedy wind, solar and storage project may beat it in size eventually with around 1.2GW.

Way says that once the second stage is completed and the storage is added, the wind and solar farms will just like a fossil fuel facility, although with more flexibility, minimal emissions and at a cheaper price.

She would not comment on how the proposed National Energy Guarantee might encourage or discourage the project, but said the price of renewable energy was falling and any energy policy needs to recognise this and be “forward looking”.

Fears have been raised about the possibility that the NEG may be designed to limit the amount of renewables that could be added to the grid, and about its modeling which assumes prices for wind and solar which are significantly higher than actual prices.

Way says the development application for the second stage would be filed soon. Like the second state of the Whyalla steel proposal, which seeks to add 480MW of solar, it will likely depend on developments in the next couple of years.

“Up until now we’ve been focussed on proving the viability of the concept. The appointment of our preferred key contractors, Vestas and Downer, represents a significant milestone in the progression,” DP Energy CEO Simon De Pietro said in a statement.

De Pietro said the company had also secured the support of a lead infrastructure investor, although the company declined to name the party. It expects to begin construction in the second quarter of 2018.

For the first stage, Vestas will supply 59 times 3.6MW turbines , Downer will be responsible for the solar and Vestas will be responsible for the control system to integrate the wind and solar technologies.

The project will use the Davenport sub-station, which was the connection point for the now closed 540MW Northern brown coal power station.