Sophie Vorath, RenewEconomy
US battery maker Tesla has again been selected to team up with French renewables developer Neoen on another ground-breaking Australian project; this time in Victoria, on the construction of a wind farm and battery storage facility that will help power a major Stawell farming business.
The wind and battery project, first flagged in mid-2017, will pair the 204MW Bungala wind farm in Victoria’s western district, with a 20MW/34MWh battery storage system to generate 750,000 MWh of electricity a year.
In an announcement released in the first week of January, Neoen confirmed that the first of its kind project would go ahead, with Tesla to supply the lithium-ion battery packs for the storage component, and with the backing of a 15-year ‘Support Agreement’ with the Victorian government.
The project – which has been negotiated with the help of the Labor Andrews government, which has a legislated renewable energy target of 30 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025 – was largely devised to help unlock a planned $565 million expansion of local agribusiness, Nectar Farms.
Indeed, Nectar Farms’ plans to expand its 10 hectare state-of-the-art hydroponic glasshouse and plant technology to 40 hectares to supply vegetables to local and international markets hinged entirely on the ability to source renewable energy.
As we reported here, Nectar Farms had planned to use gas – as the hydroponic farms needs heat and CO2 – but the cost was overwhelming and the gas supply was not guaranteed. So instead of abandoning the project altogether, or moving it elsewhere, it turned to renewables and decided to completely electrify the process.
The deal will see 15 per cent of the energy generated by the Bungala Green Power Hub (BGPH) dedicated to powering the expanded Nectar Farms hydroponics operations, with the remainder to be sent to the local grid, via a connection agreement with distribution company AusNet Services.
The details of the ‘Support Agreement’ with the Victorian government have not been revealed – we have put in a request for more information – but as reported back in June 2017, the plan was to issue a contract for difference to buy the remaining output from the wind farm.
As we also stressed then, it is important to note that this 20MW/34MWh battery storage installation is not part of the Victoria tender for two 20MW battery storage arrays in western Victoria with a total of 100MWh of stored energy – the results of which we are still yet to hear.
Nonetheless, development of the Bungala Hub is a big deal – the first renewable energy and agribusiness collaboration of its kind globally, according to Neoen, and that company’s largest single project within Australia.
It marks another big win for Tesla, whose ‘world’s biggest’ grid-connected battery storage facility was switched on in South Australia last month, next to Neoen’s 315MW Hornsdale wind farm.
For Neoen, it is a good start to what promises to be another big year, with the company reportedly planning to commission an even bigger big battery system – potentially in partnership with Tesla – at the Neoen’s Kaban Green Power Hub, 80km southwest of Cairns in Queensland.
Neoen said the support it had received from the Victorian government – led by the government’s renewable energy advocate, Simon Corbell – was testament to its commitment to meet the VRET and emissions targets, and to assist regional economies.
Neoen says the BGPH will create up to 1,300 jobs during construction of two major infrastructure projects in Stawell, 270 ongoing jobs in the region, and will contribute significantly to the state’s food and fibre export targets.
This project will demonstrate regional Australia’s capacity and capability to integrate renewables with cutting-edge horticultural technology on a broad scale,’ the company said in a statement.
Franck Woitiez, Neoen’s managing director, said the project’s payback to the economy of Western Victoria and Stawell in particular was ‘unprecedented in scale.’
‘(This) is a major step forward for communities, businesses and the renewable energy industry, and it concludes a year of great achievements for Neoen,’ he said.