South Australia Eyes Big Wave of New Solar, Storage

Meeting in the state capital of Adelaide yesterday, the Board of ZEN Energy approved a strategic plan to establish 1 GW of additional dispatchable renewable generation assets. The assets will support long-term electricity supply contracts with South Australia’s large industrial users to provide access to lower cost, reliable and low emission energy.

The plan was announced following the first ZEN Energy Board meeting since Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance purchased a 50.1 percent share in the company.

The announcements strengthen Gupta’s position in South Australia, which began earlier this year when the British billionaire’s company Liberty House purchased the struggling Whyalla Steelworks from Arrium.

The projects endorsed by the ZEN Energy board in the Upper Spencer Gulf region about 300km north of Adelaide include:

  • 200 MW of solar PV, comprising 80 MW in the Whyalla Council industrial area, expanded by 120 MW on adjacent land owned by Liberty OneSteel;
  • 100-MW/100-MWh battery at Port Augusta;
  • 100MW of demand response at the Whyalla Steelworks and other South Australian sites;
  • 120-MW/600-MWh pumped hydro storage facility at a disused iron ore mine pit in the Middleback Ranges.

ZEN Energy plans to install an additional 480 MW of solar capacity to support the expansion of industrial capacity in Whyalla and industrial loads elsewhere in South Australia.

“I am delighted ZEN Energy is able to hit the ground running,” ZEN Energy Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said.

“These first steps in South Australia will improve reliability and greatly reduce costs of electricity in our own steelworks at Whyalla, and provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users.

“This will be followed by early steps to lower Liberty OneSteel’s electricity costs in New South Wales and Victoria, and to provide power at lower cost to other industrial enterprises in these states and Queensland.”

The announcement is the latest in a string of renewable energy projects underway in South Australia.

In July, Tesla CEO Elon Musk flew into Adelaide to announce his company would partner with French renewable energy company Neoen to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery (100 MW/129 MWh) at Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state’s Mid-North.

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40 percent of the electricity generated in the state.

However, the closure of two coal-fired power stations in recent years has forced prices up and increased South Australia’s reliance on energy supplies from the eastern Australian states, particularly in times of peak demand.

It is also a time of uncertainty in national energy policy as the Australian Government struggles to come up with a unified vision for the future of its electricity network.

“I have been asked whether today’s decision is contingent on how current uncertainty in national electricity policy is resolved,” Gupta said.

“Naturally we are watching developments in policy closely. In the meantime, we are proceeding with the first 520 MW of capacity based on positive interactions with relevant stakeholders.

“I believe there is a great future for energy-intensive industries in Australia. I look forward to helping build ZEN Energy to become a major player in the Australian energy transition.”

This article was originally published by The Lead South Australia under a Creative Commons license.

Lead image credit: CC0 Creative Commons | Pixabay

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