Solar Storage for the Sunshine State: Vena Energy Wandoan South Project

Vena Energy

Vena Energy’s exciting Wandoan South Project has reached a significant milestone with the announcement of a $120 million Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) to be built, inking a power purchase deal with AGL.

Vena Energy Australia has been developing the Wandoan South Project for several years, which when complete, will be one of the country’s biggest solar farms and battery storage facilities.

The Wandoan South Project has been approved to generate a whopping 1000MW, with storage capacity approved at 450MW. To be developed across several stages, once complete, it could generate the electricity equivalent to meet the annual needs of 400,000 homes.

“The construction process for the solar component of the Wandoan South Project is still to be finalised but at this stage we’re anticipating at least three stages of solar, across the entire Wandoan South Site, with each stage to be similar in scale until both the solar project and battery are fully completed,” explains Vena Energy CEO Nitin Apte.

The announcement of the BESS, which will have a capacity of 100MW and store 150MWh, can power 57,000 homes alone. Compare this to South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, which is growing from 100MW/129MWh to 150MW/194MWh in the first half of 2020, and it’s easy to see why there’s so much buzz around Queensland’s big battery.

Related article: Hornsdale Power Reserve to get 50 per cent bigger

In late January, it was announced Vena Energy and AGL had signed a 15-year power purchase agreement, which means that Vena Energy will build, own and maintain the BESS, while AGL will have full operational dispatch rights to charge and discharge the battery. Now the deal is signed, it paves the way for the BESS’ construction to begin. Stage one is anticipated to be complete in the second half of 2021, with initial site, civil and electrical works required as milestones to reach operation in 2021.

Not only a milestone for Vena Energy (being its first battery storage project and with no Government assistance), it also represents a major milestone for the continuing modernisation of Queensland’s energy supply.

“It accelerates the state’s transition to a cleaner future and has the potential to utilise solar renewable energy from existing generation,” Mr Apte says.

Vena Energy

“It will also encourage a positive investment environment for future projects as well as encourage broader adoption of renewable energy in Queensland and in Australia.”

Vena Energy is developing a similar BESS for South Australia, which it says will be an important contributor to the stability of the state’s electricity grid.

“In Australia, Vena Energy is progressing over 2500MW of renewable energy projects across the country and last year commissioned a 95MW solar project at Tailem Bend in South Australia,” Mr Apte says.

“Adjacent to our Tailem Bend Stage One Solar Project completed in 2019, Stage Two is now under development. The project has an estimated generation capacity of 87MW and will supply power equivalent to the annual needs of 37,000 homes once completed.

“Tailem Bend Solar Project Stage Two includes provision for battery storage and will connect to the National Electricity Market via ElectraNet’s Tailem Bend Substation.

“The $200 million project was endorsed by the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet in November 2017 and was approved by the South Australian Minister for Planning in July 2018.”

For Mr Apte, who has an extensive background spanning engineering and business at big-name companies across the globe, the energy industry is in an exciting period of transition.

“[While] this is not without its challenges, as the right energy mix must balance energy equity against environmental sustainability,” he says.

“Energy must be accessible around the world, particularly in emerging markets, at an affordable cost but global warming calls for improved energy efficiency and development of renewable sources.

“It’s a balance we’re working hard to solve and is likely to require more game-changing technologies such as the grid-scale battery we are building in Queensland. It’s these sorts of challenges that appeal to the engineer in me.”

Vena Energy of course believes that renewable energy is the cheapest and cleanest source of new generation to replace the eventual retirement of ageing coal assets.

Related article: New giant battery to support AGL’s renewable drive in Queensland

“This transition over the coming years will have to be supported by a certain level of firming generation such as gas and energy storage such as battery and pumped hydro,” Mr Apte says.

“Network planning and investment are key to supporting the advancement of renewable projects, ensuring unconstrained energy can be generated in areas with good resource and transported efficiently to the customers in the network.”

With AGL supporting this transition through its renewable drive in Queensland, its CEO Brett Redman says the BESS will enable AGL to leverage excess solar generation in Queensland and provide capacity when the Coopers Gap Wind Farm and other renewable sources are not generating.

“Early last year we delivered the Dalrymple 30 MW ESCRI battery on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia as part of a joint venture with ElectraNet and in October we announced a deal with Maoneng Group to buy capacity from four 50 MW /100 MWh batteries in NSW,” Mr Redman says.

 “We are investigating the feasibility of pumped hydro plants at Kanmantoo in South Australia and Bells Mountain in NSW, which if progressed will provide more than 500 MW of new storage capacity. 

“We are also working with the New South Wales Government’s Emerging Energy Program on a proposal to build a 50 MW battery at Broken Hill, we have plans for a gas firming power station in Newcastle, and we are exploring other sites. 

“More broadly we have $1.9 billion of energy supply projects completed or in construction and another $2 billion in the pipeline, subject to feasibility and stable policy settings, which will all help to put downward pressure on prices for customers.”