The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is funding solar company Conergy to build a world-leading renewable project in north Queensland which combines large-scale battery storage with large-scale solar.

ARENA will provide $17.4 million in funding to support Conergy to build and operate a 10.8 MW (AC) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant with 41,400 solar panels and 1.4MW/5.3MWh of lithium-ion battery storage on 45 hectares of land near the town of Lakeland in far north Queensland.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the project aims to be the first in the world to test a concept known as ‘islanding’ from the main electricity grid with the local town of Lakeland powered solely by solar and batteries for several hours during tests.

The project will be connected to the Ergon Energy network. A detailed battery testing plan will be implemented over the first two years of operations, culminating in testing ‘island mode’ during the evening peak.

Mr Frischknecht said ARENA had worked with Conergy to form a knowledge sharing steering committee, joined by BHP Billiton, Ergon Energy and Origin Energy.

“We welcome BHP Billiton, Ergon and Origin Energy’s involvement. Sharing these unique lessons is expected to accelerate similar developments across Australia,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“BHP Billiton will gain valuable insights into the potential for solar and storage to assist its remote operations, Ergon is considering if the approach could help avoid network upgrade costs in other regional QLD communities and Origin is buying the power from the plant.”

“More broadly, the project will develop an improved connection process for solar PV plus battery plants and share information with the industry and relevant regulatory bodies.”

Mr Frischknecht said the landmark project was well placed to work alongside ARENA’s major push to deploy more large-scale solar PV plants across Australia.

“Figuring out how solar PV and battery storage technologies best work together at a large scale will be crucial for helping more renewables enter our grids,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“We know that battery storage will play a critical role in our future energy systems.

“The benefit of adding batteries to solar farms is simple; they store energy from the sun for use at peak times and overnight. They can also smooth solar energy output on cloudy days.”

Mr  Frischknecht said said the plant was expected to generate and store enough renewable energy to power more than 3000 homes and create up to 60 jobs in the Lakeland region during construction.

“The global energy transition is happening faster than many anticipated and Australia is well placed to be a key player,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Our growing expertise in integrating renewables and batteries could readily translate into economic opportunities including export dollars in world markets.

“Solar farms with storage can be especially useful at the edges of our electricity grids. This project adds to ARENA’s portfolio of fringe-of-grid projects, which prove how renewables can enhance the reliability of energy supply in regional Australia and benefit local networks.

“Fringe-of-grid locations face a number of challenges with reliability and outages caused by network constraints, a lack of infrastructure and long distance power lines.”

BHP Billiton Senior Manager Environment Dr Graham Winkelman said beyond contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, solar and storage projects may also assist BHP Billiton in the future to reduce its own operating emissions while helping to support energy reliability at some of our more remote operations.

“BHP Billiton has a commitment to accelerating the development and deployment of low emissions technologies and we believe that to do this we must facilitate the sharing of knowledge and lessons from projects such as the Lakeland Solar and Storage Project,” Dr Winkelman said.

Origin Energy Markets CEO Frank Calabria said the company has flexibility in the generation portfolio to grow interest in renewables, particularly with the cost of solar falling.

“Edge of grid technology will play a growing role in our energy markets and we’re excited to be involved in a project that involves large scale battery storage and how we can smooth out intermittent sources of power like solar when they are affected by factors such as cloud cover,” Mr Calabria said.

The $42.5 million project is scheduled for completion in April 2017.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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