GE Renewable Energy, a Paris-based subsidiary of GE (which has already installed more than 400GW capacity globally) received the green light to start working on the large-scale battery storage technology that will be incorporated in the Solar River Project near Robertstown, South Australia. The Solar River Project, which needs to be executed in two stages in 2020 and 2021, is expected to supply renewable energy to more than 90,000 Australian homes.
The 200MW photovoltaic array—with its 640,000 solar panels—will be coupled with GE’s 100MW, 3-hour storage system, delivering almost 300MWh of storage capacity. Such power could transfer up to 400MWh of electricity per day, which makes it one of the largest batteries in the world.
Comparing Two Battery Storage Giants
Until recently, Tesla’s Hornsdale Power Reserve used to hold the first place for being the largest grid storage system in South Australia; but once GE has finished its project, the 100MW/129MWh Tesla battery will lose that top position.
The Hornsdale Power Reserve was primarily developed to provide network security services to South Australians. The Solar River Project includes more ambitious goals, connecting the 3,200 by 1,800-metre long array to the national grid with transmission lines—to create a sustainable living community with clean air, cheap electricity, and 350 regional jobs. This includes engineering jobs at the apprentice, trainee, and managerial levels.
A Google Map satellite view snippet of the Hornsdale Power Reserve location near Port Augusta in South Australia. Image Credit: Hornsdale Power Reserve.
An Effective Solution to Narrow Peaky Loads
The storage system is a significant shift for South Australia towards green electricity, which is still largely powered by natural gas electricity generation. Approximately 60% of the natural gas reserves in South Australia is used for electricity generation.
A large battery system could solve narrow peaky loads, which, as reported by GE, is a perpetual power issue for Australia. Battery storage is beneficial to solar power grids, as it effectively reduces electricity demand charges; plus, it can manage shortages and is a step forward towards the wider adoption of hybrid power plants—solving the dilemma of how to make sustainable energy work within the current fossil fuel infrastructure.
A static graph excerpt that shows how much electrical power in megawatts (MW) is being used in each Australian state and how much electrical power is being generated by different fuel types made on the 29th of November 2019. To watch live widget updates for every few minutes, visit sa.gov.au. Image Credit: sa.gov.au.
Dispatchable Resources for a Market-Driven Economy
The cost of the project, which is being developed as a private-public partnership is AUD 450 million ($305.7 million). Similar to the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the Solar River Project battery will enable a fast-reacting capacity to support the state’s effort to make coal history. On top of that, the battery supplied by GE Renewable Energy has a longer energy duration—a substantial factor to future grid sustainability.
This storage system will produce dispatchable electricity sources that could be used to meet, even more so, the fluctuating energy needs of an evolving economy.
What’s interesting about Tesla’s Powerpack battery is that its smaller versions have already been used as commercial solutions and are largely based on batteries for its electric vehicles, which might give them an advantage in terms of experience, because the GE’s performance is yet to be seen.
Solar power grids are one of the fastest-growing industries for renewable energy in Australia, estimated to help consumers lower their bills by $600 million in the next decade. However, they cannot escape from the common problem of managing demand on request while going carbonless. GE and Tesla are not the only companies contributing to this massive shift in Australia, but the two batteries are currently among the world’s largest—in a race which is not yet over.