Broken Hill energy project gets $45m from ARENA

Brandon How

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will provide $45 million in support for a renewable energy storage project in Broken Hill and more than $400,000 for a feasibility study to convert a gas-fired power station.

The funding, announced by Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen on Friday, will flow to Canadian energy storage developer Hydrostor and AGL Energy, respectively.

Artist’s rendition of the energy storage facility. Image: Hydrostor

Hydrostor is repurposing a a disused mine at Broken Hill, New South Wales for a 200MW energy storage facility in collaboration with Australian developer Energy Estate. The $45 million in funding is conditional on the $652 million Silver City Energy Storage Project reaching financial close in late 2023.

Hydrostor’s Broken Hill 1600MWh project will provide storage for a minimum of eight hours and will reserve 250MWh as a back-up power service. Grid operator TransGrid announced in May that the project will be its preferred back-up power supplier for Broken Hill.

An economic impact report undertaken by ACIL Allen last June notes that around 53 per cent of all operations expenditure would be purchased from the Broken Hill region, worth about $12 million annually across the project’s life span of more than 50 years.

Using advanced compressed air energy storage technology, energy is stored when electricity is in low demand. This is released using a turbo-expander to generate electricity during periods of high demand.

ARENA describes this technology as an alternative bulk energy storage solution to pumped hydro and has a similar price point. Hydrostor claims the technology utilises 10 times less water and 20 times less land than pumped hydro solutions.

Minister Bowen said that medium duration energy storage solutions are important as the country pursues its 82 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. He also highlighted the importance of storage solutions that can be flexible in site selection.

“In Australia’s regional towns at the fringe of the grid such as Broken Hill, new large scale storage technologies can provide back-up power to communities that will improve the reliability of electricity supply. Having more grid scale storage will also support more solar and wind in regional areas,” he said.

AGL also received $422,582 from ARENA on Friday to undertake a feasibility study on whether the steam-driven turbines at AGL’s gas-fired Torrens Island Power Station B near Adelaide can be operated by heating chemically engineered materials.

The utilities company will consider two possible options for thermal storage: Kraftblock’s German-made synthetic pellets that can operate at up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, or MGA Thermal’s Australian alloy operable at up to 760 degrees.

Mr Bowen said the increasing take up of renewable energy in the National Electricity Market is putting pressure on the need for greater storage capacity.

“This study will look at the feasibility of retrofitting current power stations to be powered by renewable electricity and thermal energy storage – these are the kind of innovative ideas that we need to get this massive transformation right,” he said.

AGL is also building a 50MW/50MWh battery near Broken Hill and received $41 million from ARENA in March. It is expected to be complete in early 2023.

In September, ARENA announced $47.5 million in funding to support development of a 10MW electrolyser in Karratha, Western Australia. The joint venture between ENGIE Renewables Australia and Australian hydrogen subsidiary of Japanese Mitsui and co. is worth $87.1 million and will produce 640 tonnes of hydrogen annually.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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