Australia’s first fully integrated solar, wind and battery project at the central Queensland Kennedy Energy Park will deliver a new model for renewable energy in Australia. While still in the early stages of construction, the successful completion of the hybrid project will help Australia in the transition to a clean energy future.
The Kennedy Energy Park will be a world-leading hybrid renewable energy facility and is being constructed on farmland approximately 17km southeast of Hughenden in North Queensland and 290km southwest of Townsville.
Phase one of the project will combine 43.2MW of wind, 15MW (AC) of single axis tracking solar PV, and 2MW/4MWh lithium-ion battery storage system supplied by Tesla.
The $160 million project will provide power to more than 30,000 average homes each year.
The project reached financial close on 18 October 2017 after securing $94 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Earlier, in 2016, the project had secured up to $18 million in recoupable grant funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
The project will be built under a joint venture between Windlab Limited and Eurus Energy Holdings Corporation of Japan.
Work on the first phase of the Kennedy Energy Park started in October 2017, and involves the construction of the first 60MW which includes 43.2MW of wind, 15MW (AC) of solar and 2MW/4MWh of battery storage.
The project’s first phase is expected to take just over a year to construct and is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2018.
The project will test the viability of the combined wind, solar and storage approach, and lay the foundations for a planned second phase, ‘Big Kennedy’, that will involve up to 1,200MW of renewable energy capacity for the North Queensland Network.
Harnessing hybrid energy
Kennedy Energy Park will be the first time a combined large-scale solar, wind and battery installation has connected to Australia’s national electricity market.
CEFC Project Lead, Bobby Vidakovic, said Australia’s energy mix needs higher levels of these clean energy projects if it is to meet its international climate change commitments.
“Australia’s electricity system is experiencing significant new investment, with renewable energy costs rapidly declining and entering the market at an increasing scale,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“The generation profile of hybrids like Kennedy Energy Park enables renewable generation to play a significant role in a cleaner energy economy because the technologies work together to provide more predictable, reliable and low-cost energy to the grid.
“Harnessing flexible capacity, better demand management systems and increased storage capacity will help us build a stronger, secure electricity supply at the same time as developing renewable energy generation that will help us reduce our electricity sector carbon emissions,” Mr Vidakovic said.
The location of the Kennedy Energy Park was chosen for its high and consistent wind resource.
The profile of the wind resource which is biased toward the late afternoon, evening and night, is extremely complementary with the abundant solar irradiation in outback Queensland, making the location ideal for such a hybrid solution.
“The site was identified and selected by Windlab Limited, using WindScapeTM , a suite of industry best practice wind energy prospecting and assessment tools which are owned by Windlab and were originally developed by CSIRO.
“The natural benefits of the Kennedy Energy Park site will deliver high levels of solar energy throughout the day and strong wind generation in the evenings, creating a reliable generation profile,” Mr Vidakovic said.
Mr Vidakovic said co-locating wind and solar with battery storage on the one site also resulted in construction cost savings through the shared infrastructure such as roads, electrical equipment grid connection and site amenities.
The addition of the battery component will provide even greater grid stability and allows energy to be stored for use at peak periods or when demand is unexpectedly high.
“While the use of battery storage to enhance wind and solar is new territory for Australian projects, it is something the country will utilise more and more as the penetration of renewable energy generators in the energy market increases,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“This project brings with it learnings about the optimal size of battery storage required to improve the supply of renewable energy generation. It also provides an understanding of how hybrid technologies have helped overcome intermittency reliability issues.
“The CEFC expects such projects to become an increasingly important part of Australia’s electricity system, with complementary battery storage addressing the intermittency of wind and solar generation to support grid stability.”
Clean energy challenges
Introducing increased levels of clean energy generation into Australia’s energy mix poses a number of challenges including financing the construction of the generators.
Mr Vidakovic said the CEFC has been working since 2012 to help break down those barriers and encourage investment in the sector.
“During that time, we’ve witnessed a dramatic move down the cost curve for new wind and solar where it is now below the benchmark for gas or new coal generators,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“Batteries have also dramatically decreased in cost and as these costs continue to reduce, the economic proposition to include batteries as part of renewable projects will continue to improve.”
Phase one of the Kennedy Energy Park is part of a number of new large-scale renewable energy and storage projects in North Queensland, which include the Kidston Renewable Energy Hub that features large-scale solar and pumped hydro storage, the Ross River Solar Farm, the proposed Forsayth Wind Farm, and the proposed hydro-electric power station on Burdekin Falls Dam.
Mr Vidakovic said financing three separate technologies on one site was a complex undertaking and one that had not been achieved in an Australian renewable energy project.
“Hybrid renewables projects face the complexity of integrating the technical, regulatory and licensing requirements of multiple technologies into one project,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“The CEFC is the sole debt financier position for the project and hopes to demonstrate the bankability of these kinds of hybrid renewable energy projects.
“By financing ground-breaking projects like Phase one of the Kennedy Energy Park, the CEFC is looking to build industry knowledge and expertise.”
The configuration, control and energy export characteristics of the project will demonstrate many of the findings and recommendations of the Independent Electricity Market Review, recently completed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.
“The findings of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (commonly referred to as the Finkel Review) released in June 2017, made a clear case for a future electricity system with increased security and future reliability that rewards consumers and lowers emissions,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“The review recommended that new generators should be obliged to ensure they can supply electricity when needed for the duration and capacity determined for each National Electricity Market region.
“The subsequent recommendation from the Energy Security Board for a National Energy Guarantee supports the provision of reliable, secure and affordable electricity and places a requirement on electricity retailers to include a minimum amount of flexible dispatchable capacity at an emissions level consistent with Australia’s international emissions reduction commitments. We are now seeing new projects factor in technologies that will enable them to meet those obligations.”
The first of many?
As the cost of producing electricity from renewable resources continues its rapid downward direction, it is hoped the facility will attract more large-scale hybrid renewable projects in Australia in the future.
“Kennedy Energy Park demonstrates how hybrid renewable energy projects can provide a cost-effective clean energy solution to remote area and fringe of grid communities where transporting energy over long distances can be costly and inefficient,” Mr Vidakovic said.
“The project will demonstrate the importance of matching wind and solar generation to provide more predictable, reliable and low cost renewable energy.
“The CEFC will exercise the learnings it has gained through financing this project when it assesses requests for finance from future hybrid project proponents.”