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AGL breaks ground on ‘pioneering’ Broken Hill battery


AGL Energy has broken ground on the $41 million (USD 27 million) Broken Hill battery energy storage system (BESS), aiming to have it operational by mid-2023. Once complete, the lithium-ion grid-scale system is expected to provide back-up for an estimated 10,000 households and businesses in the historic mining region of Broken Hill.

The 50 MW Broken Hill battery will feature one hour of storage and will capture, store and distribute energy from surrounding wind and solar farms, including AGL’s 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Farm, improving the reliability of energy supply in Broken Hill, as well as providing storage and firming capacity to the National Energy Market (NEM).

United States-based technology provider and system integrator Fluence, which will deliver the battery in conjunction with its consortium partner Valmec, said the project will feature the latest-generation technology and offer market-leading functionality.

Fluence said the battery system will be permanently set to grid-forming mode, resisting changes in network voltage and frequency and providing synthetic inertia through the ‘Virtual Machine Mode’ in the Fluence software and controls system.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has provided a $14.84 million grant to enable the construction of the battery, said the battery’s capabilities will be tested in what it describes as “some of the most challenging conditions” on the NEM.

It is expected the Broken Hill battery will improve the reliability of energy supply in the outback region.

Image: Facebook

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said he expects the Broken Hill battery to demonstrate the ability of large-scale batteries to be equipped with grid-forming inverters to improve system strength and facilitate higher penetrations of variable renewable energy generation at the lowest cost.

“As Australia’s electricity system switches to higher rates of renewables it will be increasingly important to deliver storage solutions that have the capabilities to stabilise the grid,” Miller said.

“AGL’s Broken Hill battery allows us to test advanced inverter technology in some of the most challenging conditions for the grid, while also improving system security and stability in the region.”

Fluence Australia general manager Achal Sondhi said the Broken Hill battery, the first project the company is delivering to AGL after signing a framework agreement in 2021 to supply up to 1 GW of grid-scale battery storage, is a “pioneering project” for the industry.

“We are excited to bring our latest product, proven technology and more than 14 years of global deployment experience to support the energy transition in Australia,” he said.

The Broken Hill battery is to be built on industrial land about six kilometres southeast of the city centre. The battery, which will connect to the grid via TransGrid’s Broken Hill substation, is expected to be completed by early 2023.

The project is expected to provide up to 50 jobs for engineers, tradespeople and other contractors during construction.

AGL’s Travis Hughes speaks to the media at the sod-turning ceremony.

Image: AGL

AGL energy hubs general manager Travis Hughes said the project highlights the company’s commitment to investing in battery-based energy storage in Australia and is an important milestone towards AGL achieving its 5 GW target of wind, battery, pumped hydro and other low-carbon firming projects by 2030.

Australia’s largest energy generator-retailer, AGL earlier this year announced it plans to have up to 12 GW of new generation and firming capacity in place before 2036. This includes an interim target to have up to 5 GW of new renewables and firming in place by the end of the decade.

“The new Broken Hill battery is another exciting step for AGL, with the battery playing a crucial role in supporting renewable energy supply and ensuring communities in western New South Wales have access to reliable energy,” Hughes said.

“AGL has been part of the Broken Hill community since 2015 through the Silverton Wind Farm and Broken Hill Solar Plant and we are proud to continue to deliver renewable power to households and businesses in the area.”

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