World’s Biggest Battery Race Gets New Contender in Australia

(Bloomberg) -- Another big battery project has been announced in Australia, as energy storage developers rush to profit from the nation’s abundant sunshine and wind resources.

Origin Energy Ltd. issued an expression of interest to firms to supply and install a 700-megawatt facility near the Eraring coal plant in New South Wales, with the first phase planned to start by the end of next year, the Sydney-based company said on Tuesday. That comes as utilities around the world race to install warehouse-sized batteries to back up wind and solar generation, with the current 300-megawatt record holder starting in California last month.

While coal is still the biggest power source in Australia, companies and states are seeking to address an expected power crunch as the nation’s aging plants are retired. Batteries can also be a very profitable investment, with the three biggest in South Australia earning as much as a third of their initial capital costs when the state was temporarily separated from the rest of the nation’s electricity grid last February, according to BloombergNEF.

“The deployment of this battery at Eraring will support Origin’s orderly transition away from coal-fired generation by 2032” and help New South Wales meet its energy policy objectives, said Greg Javis, Origin executive general manager for energy supply and operations. “We have an important role to play in positioning Origin’s electricity generation portfolio to support Australia’s rapid transition to renewables.”

Massive batteries are becoming a staple of power grids as a larger share of generation capacity tilts to intermittent sources such as solar and wind. Battery operators can purchase that clean energy during excess periods and re-sell it when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.

Other companies also have big plans for energy storage, with France’s Neoen SA submitting a scoping study for a 500-megawatt battery in New South Wales to regulators in December, after in November saying it would partner with Tesla Inc. to install a 300-megawatt facility in Victoria. Even larger systems than Origin’s have been announced for California, China and Australia.