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ZEN Energy Announces The Big Battery Project

As part of our vision to keep growing as Australia’s leading renewable energy company, ZEN Energy has over recent times been working on a set of renewable energy and storage projects in the Upper Spencer Gulf region of South Australia. The aim of these projects is to lower energy costs, improve regional and state energy security, and to promote regional development.

The projects ZEN Energy has been working on include large-scale solar developments at the major South Australian regional centres of Whyalla, Port Pirie, and eventually Port Augusta.

Alongside these large-scale solar developments, ZEN Energy has also been working on a large battery project at Port Augusta, referred to by ZEN as the Big Battery Project.

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What is the Big Battery Project and what would it do?

The main focus of the Big Battery Project has initially been on a large battery with 50 megawatts (MW) of power and 50 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy. This size of battery would be large enough to stabilise solar energy supplies from ZEN’s Upper Spencer Gulf projects, provide grid stability that has been needed after the closure of the Northern Power Station in Port Augusta in May 2016, and to make a contribution to the stabilisation of wholesale electricity prices within the National Electricity Market.

Following more recent grid stability problems in South Australia, ZEN Energy has turned to explore the value of larger batteries that would make even greater contributions. The larger battery sizes that have been explored include:

  • a 100MW battery, which would provide an additional buffer against involuntary load shedding across the grid. This buffer would be especially valuable in circumstances such as those which prevailed in the South Australian heatwave conditions of February 2017, where 90,000 South Australian energy users were affected by load shedding brought about by power demand outstripping power supply.
  • a 150MW battery, to stabilise grid frequency and voltage in special circumstances of sudden loss of power within the grid. Such a sudden loss of power in the grid was identified as the cause of South Australia’s state-wide blackout on the 28th of September 2016.

As Prof. Ross Garnaut stated about the Big Battery Project on the 21st of February 2017:

“The blackouts that we’ve had in the last year would not have happened if this was in place. The load shedding problems of two weeks ago would be resolved, the frequency and voltage problems of last September would be resolved, the frequency control issues that have arisen a few times would have been resolved.”


So what are the next steps for ZEN Energy’s Big Battery Project?

The battery’s contribution to electricity supply stability would be greatly improved by reforms to allow for more efficient operation of the electricity grid and the wholesale electricity market.

In particular, the two larger scales of project would require reforms to remove obstacles that currently exist to the efficient operation of the National Electricity Market comprising:

  • moving to the settlement of wholesale energy contracts on the basis of the 5 minute prices which are bid by sellers and buyers of wholesale power, rather than averaging prices over half hour periods as currently occurs.
  • the introduction of a market for fast response grid stability services, to allow the special features of the battery to be accounted for in the stabilisation of grid frequency. This service of frequency stabilisation can be described as a provision of “synthetic inertia”, to substitute for the removal of inertia that was once provided by synchronous coal and gas generators.

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On the 21st of February 2017, ZEN Energy Chairman Ross Garnaut and ZEN Energy CEO Geoff Titus met the Premier of South Australia, The Hon. Jay Weatherill, and the Treasurer, Minister of Finance, State Development and Energy Tom Koutsantonis, to discuss ZEN Energy’s Big Battery Project and the type of reforms that are required for the larger scales of the project. The Ministers were advised of the potential contribution of a big battery to the enhancement of energy security and stabilisation of energy prices in South Australia, and also of the need for timely removal of the regulatory hurdles that currently exist to allow the Big Battery Project to contribute to South Australian energy security as soon as possible.

ZEN Energy is keen to proceed with this project as soon as possible, with private investment already agreed and planning well underway. As such, ZEN looks forward to favourable feedback from the South Australian Government on removal of the regulatory hurdles in the near future, so that the true value and benefits of the project can be realised for all South Australian households and businesses.

To hear ZEN Energy Chairman Ross Garnaut speak on the Big Battery Project, listen to this interview conducted with Adelaide radio station FIVEaa and presenter Leon Byner on the 22nd of February 2017 (audio courtesy of FIVEaa).


Please stay tuned to the ZEN Energy website for further updates on the ZEN Energy Big Battery Project.

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