This week in solar: Big battery projects, renewable energy transmission lines, clean energy tech partnership with the Republic of Korea.
This post explores this week’s news in detail.
Let’s dive in.
Big Battery projects in Australia
There’s been growth in the production of the world’s biggest battery. Previously, the title had been awarded to the Tesla Big Battery 150MW/194MWh in South Australia. The new kid on the block is Neoen Big Battery 300MW/450MWh in Victoria. This facility became operational on 8th December 2021.
This has been good progress, given that the facility had encountered an unexpected fire in July this year. But construction of the Big Battery continued.
Beyond Neoen’s Big Battery, Australia will see more big batteries in the coming months. So far, there’s been significant progress in the construction of Neoen’s 100MW/200MWh big battery and the 300MW/800MWh Blyth Battery in the ACT and South Australia, respectively.
New South Wales received a development application for the 500MW/1000MWh big battery by Greenspot. This construction will take place in Wallerawang, near Lithgow.
Lastly, the construction of the 35MW Darwin big battery by Hitachi in the Northern Territory is expected to begin next year. The $45 million energy storage facility should be operational by 2023.
These big batteries are part of the 85 projects (total capacity 18,660MW) in the pipeline this year.
Based on projections and the progress of current projects, the future of renewable energy is bright.
Australia and the Republic of Korea’s Clean Energy Tech Deal
On Monday 13th December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Minister for Science and Technology, Hon Melissa Price, released a joint statement on a clean energy tech deal.
Australia will commit $50 million to this deal while the Republic of Korea will match this funding “subject to domestic processes.” This makes a total of $100 million committed to this partnership deal.
In this deal, the Republic of Korea and Australia reiterated their commitment to reducing emissions to zero and agreed on work plans for clean energy technology. The agreement follows an agreed partnership by the COP26 Summit leaders.
The new deal comes from a shared commitment to using clean energy technology to solve climate change problems and identify opportunities for the renewable energy sector.
Further, this focus will see Australia and the Republic of Korea work towards zero-emission and low-emission technologies. Dubbed the ‘Low and Zero Emissions Technology Partnership’, the deal will see both countries cooperate in low-emission tech and achieve their long-term plans on emission reduction.
The partnership also presents opportunities for the Republic of Korea to cooperate and invest in Australia’s critical minerals. Western Australia holds significant critical mineral reserves and will see how these reserves will come into play in future technology and industries. This may see a growth in jobs and a new energy economy in regional areas.
Renewable energy transmission lines
On Tuesday, 14th December, the Climate Council released a joint statement reiterating the need to replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy such as hydro, solar, and wind. This, they say, will reduce the impact of global warming.
The Council observed that the biggest challenge with this shift is transforming the current electricity grid into a renewable energy-based transmission network across Australia.
This shift comes with some smaller challenges:
- Not every Australian can install solar power systems. Not many have solar panels on their roofs.
- Industries like the train system and hospitals are very energy-intensive. They already consume lots of electricity to run their operations. Creating a renewable energy grid that can power such industries will not be easy.
- The increased demand for electric cars will cause a spike in current electricity usage. We will have to account for this usage in our renewable energy grid.
- The Council noted that a renewable energy grid has to consider industries that have shifted from coal and gas-based sources to electricity.
Given these challenges, it seems that converting the electricity grid into a renewable energy grid is a taxing but achievable task. This renewable energy network should transmit high volumes of power to homes, schools, and industries.
A renewable energy transmission network is a much-needed climate action. We are already experiencing the effects of climate change, like extreme weather events. These climate changes harm our agriculture industry and regional communities.
Without any action, we may accelerate the extinction of species.
The shift to renewable energy helps Australia meet its global obligations of 1.5 degrees or lower on global warming.
Transmission before transition
As we prioritise renewable energy, our electricity grid will transition from coal-fired power in the mid-2030s. But, transitioning from fossil fuel-fired power stations requires substantial investment and commitment from consumers and energy investors.
There will be a need to construct new transmission lines and expand the current ones to serve Australian homes, industries, schools, and workplaces. Currently, the transmission lines are at full capacity.
Being full capacity means that connecting renewable power to the existing transmission network has slowed down. To address this challenge, the Australian Energy Market Operator identified transmission lines needed to connect the renewable energy zones and supply our energy needs.
Some of these lines are in the planning phase, and construction has not been fast enough. This means that the goal to lower global warming will take longer to achieve.
What’s needed is effective coordination and support between all stakeholders, including energy market entities, transmission companies, regulators, the federal governments, regional communities, and state governments. This will ensure that the transition is fair for all regions and well-executed.
How We Will Benefit From the Transition
We can all benefit from the transition to renewable energy. Building new transmission lines will create jobs in different regions. The government could boost this job growth by providing training to the workforce and preparing them for the transition.
Secondly, local procurement of steel and manufactured components for the transmission lines will boost economic development in those regions.
Thirdly, the agriculture sector will benefit from hosting transmission lines. Farmers could receive compensation for hosting the infrastructure in their farms.
Even communities that end up hosting the transmission lines should benefit. The transmission companies would need to protect the communities from any negative impacts. They would need to work with the local environmental groups and traditional owners to make the transition an inclusive process. This participation is encouraged from the planning phase to the implementation phase.
Lastly, existing easements that may be affected by the renewable energy transmission system would need to be looked into. The transmission companies and stakeholders would need to collaborate with local communities to enhance local amenities in these areas. This could include creating bike paths or gardens.
Overall, the transition to renewable energy grid needs a well-thought-out process that includes all stakeholders. This transition begins with creating a new grid for high-volume renewable energy power. This grid should be substantial enough to replace gas and coal-powered transmission lines.
Western Australia’s first 100% solar-powered mine
On Wednesday 15th December, Hon Tim Wilson MP released a statement on Western Australia’s solar farm. According to the statement, the Pilbara mines will be fully powered by solar energy instead of diesel power. This shift will see WA reduce diesel use by 100million litres annually.
The mines’ daytime operations will be powered by the 60MW Chichester Hub Solar Farm. This comes after Alinta Energy, and the Fortescue Metals Group partnered in opening the largest solar farm.
This solar farm operates outside the electricity grid and powers two mines in Pilbara. Its average load is 90MW to 100MW. The power comes from 160,000 panels across 120 hectares of land.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) awarded $24.2 million to this project. It is part of its commitment to supporting emission-reducing renewable projects.
The Chichester solar farm project is the first move in lowering emissions and integrating solar energy in the mining industry. The project has been operational since November. This is proof that the mining industry can achieve production using 100% solar energy instead of coal or gas power.
Alinta Energy is also planning to construct a 300MW wind farm to provide more clean energy to the region. This will see Fortescue reduce more carbon emissions and reliance on electricity supply.
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