Battery boost for Mornington

Rendered image of Maoneng's proposed Mornington battery
Rendered image of Maoneng's Mornington BESS

Energy Source & Distribution takes a look at Maoneng’s Mornington BESS—a utility-scale Battery Energy Storage System located in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

The Mornington BESS will store approximately 480MWh of electricity, which is enough to power more than 40,000 homes.

Development of the Mornington BESS Project will produce economic benefits for the local area well before the first megawatt of electricity is dispatched, creating local jobs and ongoing service sectors.

Maoneng director of renewables development Allison Hawke says Mornington Peninsula’s fluctuating electricity demand—particularly during tourist season—made it a logical choice for a battery energy storage system.

“Given the Victorian Government lists the integration of energy storage as a key part of its renewable energy strategy, it made sense to look at this area for a battery that will contribute to improving regional electricity reliability by drawing energy from the grid during off-peak periods for storage, and dispatching energy to the grid during peak periods. The BESS itself of course represents a significant investment, and will help boost the local economy and play its part in promoting grid stability for many years to come,” Hawke explains.

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“We’ve chosen what we believe is an optimum site for the BESS, right next to the existing AusNet Tyabb substation, which has capacity to export the electricity for a sizable battery. This provides strong and reliable connections into the grid, making good use of that existing infrastructure. Our team also gave careful and informed consideration to the accommodation of setbacks and opportunity for vegetation screening to protect the amenity of the surrounding neighbours, in line with regulatory guidelines.”

The proposed Mornington battery is rated at 240MWp /480MWh, and will comprise 1,600 battery cells within each modular unit. The BESS will be capable of producing enough power to support the equivalent of 40,000 average Australian households, and the project itself is predicted to cost upwards of $190 million. It’s a significant investment for the region and its residents.

“We’re looking at investing tens of millions into local and regional businesses, especially during the construction phase, which we expect will generate up to 150 full time equivalent jobs over 12 months,” Hawke says.

“We’re currently going through the planning process, and it’s scheduled for completion at the end of 2022. The BESS will have a lifespan of 20 years, after which the majority of the batteries can be recycled and repurposed.”

Asked about the challenges of developing a grid-scale battery storage system, Hawke says,

“There are some fundamental aspects that you have to get right when developing a project of this size. Investing in the selection of the right location is critical to enable the project to live up to its potential in terms of community acceptance, grid connection capability, construction cost and revenue yield. The Tyabb substation offers a strong connection point with abundant power capacity and modest cost for augmentation for the physical connection works.

“Another important investment of our time is in early and transparent engagement with regulators, elected representatives, near neighbours, the broader community, regional businesses, investors and suppliers through the development process and beyond. We commenced engagement with the local council about a year ago, and conversations will only ramp up as the project advances.” 

Maoneng has selected LFP batteries for the Mornington battery due to their increased safety and stability.

“Safety is a top priority for everyone in the industry, and our technical analysis of the global battery markets showed that LFP batteries have a relatively higher thermal stability and less dense chemical composition than other varieties used in utility scale batteries,” Hawke explains.

“This technology is used around the world for many different applications, and has an extremely strong safety record. Furthermore, LFP battery costs have come down recently, making them more viable at utility scale.”

Battery safety has been in the spotlight since a Tesla Megapack caught fire at the Victorian Big Battery during testing. What can be learned from this and is fire prevention an integral part of the planning phase for a project like the Mornington BESS?

“While an incident like this is always concerning for the industry, the fire was contained within a very small area of the site, and safety and emergency responses were effectively deployed,” Hawke says.

“Regulated setbacks, the hazard assessment, Australian Standards and design guidelines stood up to ensure that no people or animals were harmed, or property damaged outside of the premises.

“The incident reinforced to us that the industry has to keep educating the public about how batteries work, the proportionate risks, and how they are managed to protect communities. The cause of this incident is being assessed by the project partners. and it is likely that learnings will filter through the industry in the coming months.

“As a developer, fire risk needs to be taken into account—making sure you have adequate space for vehicles for example, and undertaking inductions and periodic refreshers with the local fire and emergency authorities. The Mornington BESS will include an advanced fire suppression system that deploys a condensed aerosol agent to automatically and quickly manage any potential hazard—it’s a system that is globally proven, and used in many critical applications in enclosed special hazard conditions.”

Hawke says there are a number of myths surrounding battery systems that can and should be dispelled:

1. Batteries are expensive and will increase our electricity bill.

“This misconception could come from comparing batteries to coal. But just as wind and solar have emerged as a low-cost alternative to coal, batteries are not expensive relative to other forms of comparable technology that is necessary to create security against imbalance and instability in the network. Batteries can respond in milliseconds, exponentially faster than diesel, gas and other traditional types of generation, meeting an important need to enable more cheap but variable renewable energy to come on stream, the effect of which is to drive down the price of electricity to consumers.”

2. Battery technology is new and risky.

“Battery technology is not new. The first chemical battery product is over 120 years old. In fact, rechargeable batteries provided the main source of electricity before the development of electric generators and electrical grids around the end of the 19th century. A prototype Li-ion battery was developed in 1985, and commercialised by Sony in 1991. Most Australian households host dozens of batteries in everything from mobile phones to remotes to appliances, supported by strict Australian Standards, and this technology has a strong safety record.”

As a renewable energy company, Maoneng is minimising its environmental impact during construction of the Mornington BESS.

“Maoneng chooses sites which are deemed to be ‘heavily disturbed’, with low residual ecological value,” Hawke says.

“We place a strong emphasis on going beyond regulatory requirements to meet industry best practice standards. We frequently explore opportunities to combine mitigation measures with positives for local species—for example, we give preference to local species for landscape screening to create habitat corridors.

“A part of our battery tender also has regard for a vendor’s demonstrated efforts to consider continuous improvement in the area of ecological products and end of life recycling. 

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“We’re pleased to say that the Mornington battery energy storage system assessments concluded that, with appropriate mitigation and management measures, there will be no significant environmental impact as a result of the operation of the project. Now our next step is to develop a construction environmental management plan to manage the potential impacts associated with the construction phase.”

Major infrastructure projects like this can draw mixed responses from the community—what has the response been like from Mornington?

“Neighbours nearest to the battery that we have managed to engage with have asked very logical questions to understand the purpose, site selection choice, technology and potential impacts,” Hawke explains.

“We are grateful for the open-mindedness of the community, and respect the patience shown in allowing us to answer their questions. We have also received positive feedback with regard to regional jobs and investment, reducing seasonal volatility and the need for expensive, noisy diesel generation.

“Both council and Neale Burgess, Victorian MP for Hastings, have assisted us in establishing contact with various local industry and resident groups to discuss the project and the opportunities it will bring. We will keep talking to members of the community as the project progresses either face to face (COVID permitting), on the phone, via email and our project website.”