AGL powers up Queensland's largest operational battery project

AGL powers up Queensland's largest operational battery project

Wandoan South Battery Energy Storage System (photo courtesy of AGL).

Leading Australian energy company AGL Energy (ASX: AGL) has today announced that its new commercial scale battery near Wandoan in Queensland, 400km north-west of Brisbane, is fully operational.

Based in the Western Downs Region, the Wandoan South Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) is the largest operational battery in the Sunshine State, delivering 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity to the grid and storing 150-megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy.

Following successful testing and commissioning over the past 18 months, full operational dispatch rights to the Wandoan South BESS were handed by the owner Vena Energy to Sydney-based AGL on a fixed long-term 15-year contract.

AGL CEO Markus Brokhof said the Wandoan South BESS would be capable of dispatching power to the grid during periods when renewable generators are less available due to a lack of wind and sun, and can power the equivalent of 57,000 homes.

“During the day when renewables are online, the Wandoan South BESS is able to store this energy and then release it when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing, or other forms of generation are offline,” Brokhof said.

“This is important for providing security to the energy market and avoiding system constraints, particularly in areas like the Darling Downs with a large local load and the potential for a high renewable energy build over the coming decade.

“Now that it is fully operational, we’re very pleased to be able to offer our customers secure, reliable, clean energy with the addition of the Wandoan South BESS.”

Vena Energy Australia head Owen Sela believes the battery, which had a construction budget of $120 million, provides the best answer to energy storage problems.

“As the need for renewable energy in the generation mix continues to increase, technologies such as the Wandoan South BESS will be capable of storing clean energy during times of low demand and dispatched at times of low production or peak demand, making it the best solution to address the intermittency of renewable energy,” he said.

The full commencement of the Wandoan South BESS comes a week after AGL announced its FY22 financial results, which saw its shares drop after it posted a 58 per cent reduction in profit.

The results were released against the backdrop of a very challenging energy sector, unprecedented market volatility and what the business described as one of the most challenging and complex six-month periods in its history.

Following a drawn-out battle to split up the company’s coal-heavy generation and power distribution assets, AGL’s board withdrew a planned demerger in May, leading to the resignation of CEO Graeme Hunt, chairman Peter Botten and two directors.

The demerger plan involved creating two listed entities, AGL Australia and Accel Energy, which prompted billionaire and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes to get involved.

Believing the split would “deliver a terrible outcome for shareholders, customers, Australian taxpayers and the planet”, Cannon-Brookes bought 11 per cent of AGL through his investment company Grok Ventures to thwart the deal.

Following the withdrawal of the demerger, the AGL board initiated a review of AGL's strategic direction, with a focus on four key areas - reviewing existing strategies, decarbonisation objectives, optimal energy mix and capital structure.

AGL currently operates Australia’s largest private electricity generation portfolio within the National Electricity Market, comprising coal and gas-fired generation, renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar, batteries and other firming technology, as well as gas production and storage assets.

It remains committed to not extending the technical life of its coal-fired power plants, announcing in February that it was bringing forward the closure windows for our thermal coal power stations.

In April, it closed the first unit of the Liddell Power Station ahead of the complete closure of the station in April 2023.

Projects and feasibility studies are underway at the three identified hubs of Latrobe Valley, Hunter and Torrens, with AGL remaining committed to repurposing its thermal generation sites into integrated energy hubs, including advancing projects that connect projects industrial partners into a low-carbon circular economy at the locations.

“Storage projects like the Wandoan South BESS will enable AGL to leverage excess solar generation in Queensland and provide capacity when the AGL’s Cooper’s Gap Wind Farm in Queensland is not generating or when the energy market needs it,” Brokhof said.

“Over the past 20 years, AGL has invested $4.8 billion in renewable and firming generation, with more than 2,350 MW of new generation capacity added to the grid since 2003,” he added.

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