Aug 23, 2016

Lakeland leads way with $42.5m solar storage project

Lakeland leads way with $42.5m solar storage project

Conergy plans to begin construction in Far North Queensland next week in a groundbreaking $42.5 million solar and storage project.

The project aims to consistently feed renewable energy into the grid and demonstrate the capability for large-scale solar and battery storage to provide reliable future power quality and supply at a fringe-of-grid location.

Located on a 50ha site off the Mulligan Highway at Lakeland, Conergy says it will be the Southern Hemisphere’s first integrated solar, storage and fringe-of-grid project of this size and scale.

The project consists of a 10.8MW solar PV array featuring 41,440 solar panels, with a Conergy ‘CHESS’ storage solution, that combined will create a consistent power supply, even during times of cloud cover.

Conergy managing director David McCallum said the construction program would begin at the end of August with civil and mechanical works, and was expected to be completed by April next year.

“Utility-scale solar and storage, combined with effective management software, is the Holy Grail of the global renewable energy industry, and with this project we are well within reach of it,” he said.

“This is an exciting opportunity to combine the latest developments in solar technology with utility-scale battery storage to feed consistent, quality power into the existing electricity grid.”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $17.4 million funding support for the work.

ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said the landmark project was well placed to work alongside ARENA’s major push to deploy more large-scale solar PV plants across Australia.

“Figuring out how solar PV and battery storage technologies best work together at a large scale will be crucial for helping more renewables enter our grids,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We know that battery storage will play a critical role in our future energy systems. The benefit of adding batteries to solar farms is simple; they store energy from the sun for use at peak times and overnight. They can also smooth solar energy output on cloudy days.

“This plant will generate and store enough renewable energy to power more than 3000 homes and create up to 60 jobs in the Lakeland region during construction.

“The global energy transition is happening faster than many anticipated and Australia is well placed to be a key player. Our growing expertise in integrating renewables and batteries could readily translate into economic opportunities including export dollars in world markets.”

He said the project added to ARENA’s portfolio of fringe-of-grid projects, which proved how renewables could enhance the reliability of energy supply in regional Australia and benefit local networks.

“Fringe-of-grid locations face a number of challenges with reliability and outages caused by network constraints, a lack of infrastructure and long-distance powerlines,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“This project is aiming to be the first in the world to test a concept known as ‘islanding’ from the main electricity grid. The local town of Lakeland will be powered solely by solar and batteries for several hours during these tests.”

The project will be connected to the Ergon Energy network. A detailed battery testing plan will be implemented over the first two years of operations, culminating in testing ‘island mode’ during the evening peak.

Mr Frischknecht said ARENA had worked with Conergy to form a knowledge sharing steering committee, joined by BHP Billiton, Ergon Energy and Origin Energy.

“BHP Billiton will gain valuable insights into the potential for solar and storage to assist its remote operations, Ergon is considering if the approach could help avoid network upgrade costs in other regional Queensland communities and Origin is buying the power from the plant,” he said.

“More broadly, the project will develop an improved connection process for solar PV plus battery plants and share information with the industry and relevant regulatory bodies.”