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Australia plans to strengthen its power grid with another giant battery

Australia plans to strengthen its power grid with another giant battery


Once built, it will be one of the largest in the world

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Tesla Launches Powerpack Project In South Australia
Cars arrive to Tesla Powerpack Launch Event at Hornsdale Wind Farm on September 29th, 2017, in Adelaide, Australia. The Hornsdale battery was the largest in the world when it came online in 2017.
Photo by Mark Brake / Getty Images

A battery covering an area the size of a football stadium is planned to come online next year in Victoria, Australia. French renewable energy company Neoen announced yesterday that it received a contract to build the 300MW battery, which would become one of the largest in the world. 

The battery is supposed to stabilize Victoria’s grid

The battery is supposed to stabilize Victoria’s grid and prevent some of the blackouts that have beleaguered the state in recent summers. It also supports Victoria’s renewable energy goals and helps move Australia away from coal, which is still the country’s primary source of energy.  

“Victoria is taking a decisive step away from coal-fired power and embracing new technologies that will unlock more renewable energy than ever before,” Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, said in a statement. 

The new battery would be more than twice the size of another one operated by Neoen in South Australia, which was the largest lithium-ion battery in the world when it came online in 2017. Like the older battery, the new one will use Tesla’s technology. The one in Victoria will be made up of Tesla’s new Megapacks, which were unveiled last year. The Megapack was developed to replace fossil fuel-burning “peaker” plants that come online during demand peaks.

“A decisive step away from coal-fired power”

Summertime peaks in electricity demand have led to rolling blackouts in Victoria as people blasted air conditioners during record-breaking temperatures. The pandemic reduced energy demand this year, but the country could grapple with blackouts over the next decade, according to a 2019 report by the Australian Energy Market Operator. Meanwhile, Victoria’s old coal-fired generators have become less reliable, according to the statement from D’Ambrosio. 200,000 homes in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria lost power in January 2019 on the hottest day of the year after generators failed at coal-fired power plants.

Two of the generators that were down that day were at the Yallourn Power Station in Victoria. The new mega battery should give the state half the energy storage it would need to shut down Yallourn, according to the nonprofit Environment Victoria. “This is a game-changer for Victoria’s transition from old coal-burning power stations to clean energy,” Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said in a statement. Victoria has a goal of sourcing 50 percent of its electricity generation from renewables by 2030. 

The aptly named Victorian Big Battery is also supposed to save residents money on their energy bills over time. Consumers will see a charge on their electricity bill for using the battery but should expect to see $2 AUD in benefits for every $1 invested, according to an independent analysis. The projected savings have some precedent: the giant battery built in South Australia in 2017 saved consumers $150 million AUD in the first two years of operation, according to Neoen.