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Big new renewable projects planned across Australia as Tesla effect hits


Following the success of Elon Musk’s 100-megawatt battery in South Australia, another battery and renewable power plant are in the works

South Australia premier Jay Weatherill with construction staff at the launch of Tesla’s 100-megawatt at Jamestown in December.
South Australia premier Jay Weatherill with construction staff at the launch of Tesla’s 100-megawatt at Jamestown in December. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

Australia’s renewable energy sector responds to the success of South Australia’s Tesla lithium ion battery. South Australia will build the world’s largest solar thermal plant, and a Queensland wind farm may be the site of a new record-breaking battery.

The Aurora solar plant in Port Augusta, SA, will begin construction this year, and is slated to provide 100% of the state government’s electricity needs by 2020, the state’s acting energy minister, Chris Picton, announced on Wednesday.

The $650m, 150-megawatt plant uses mirrors and solar power to heat molten salt and generate electricity, and was approved this week by the state government. It will be built by American company SolarReserve, and is expected to create 650 local jobs during construction.

In Queensland, French utility Neoen – which partnered with Tesla in SA to create the world’s largest battery – may trump its own creation by building an even larger storage system at the Kaban Green Power Hub, 80km from Cairns.

Garth Heron, Neoen Australia’s head of wind development, told Bloomberg the company was looking to create “a very large battery” up north to deal with “a lot of need for electricity storage up in Queensland”.

Franck Woitiez, Neoen Australia’s managing director, told Guardian Australia: “The project is progressing and we will look to go out to tender for the selection of our battery provided for this project.”

Neither Neoen or Tesla could confirm if Tesla would partner again to make the Queensland battery. A Tesla spokeswoman said the company would not comment on unconfirmed projects or speculation.

The South Australian Tesla battery, which is paired with Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm, has a 100MW capacity – enough to power 30,000 homes for an hour in the event of a blackout.

It was used for the first time in December to solve an energy shortfall during a minor heatwave.

The founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, delivered the battery in less than 100 days, in partnership with the state government, after state-wide blackouts in 2016 were blamed on renewable energy.

In December the state government hailed the battery’s effectiveness in dealing with power outages, and Neoen and Tesla have recently announced plans for a second collaboration to build a 20MW battery in Victoria.

In order for the proposed Queensland battery to be the world’s largest, it would have to beat a soon-to-be-completed battery in South Korea, from Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems Co, which at 150MW would take the crown from South Australia.

By: Naaman Zhou

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