The concept for the Aurora, the world's largest single-tower solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta – a project thrown into doubt by lack of funding in 2019. The project would have stored energy in molten salt to operate 24 hours a day.
Image courtesy SolarReserve

momentum, even with change of government


SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S ENERGY SCENE has taken on an extraordinary dynamic since the state was hit by power blackout episodes in 2016-17. These made South Australia the focus of a fierce national coal-versus-renewables energy debate.

The Labor state government (2006-18) had made a world-leading embrace of renewable energy that raced to nearly 50% output, eight years before schedule, while South Australia’s last coal-fired power station at Port Augusta had closed.

Facing a backlash including ridicule from the federal government, the South Australian Labor government took on a go-it-alone plan that abandoned relying on the national energy market and the state’s own private electricity providers. 

The state government turned back the clock and a national trend by announcing a gas-fired power station as its emergency backup. To force competition in the state power market, it also looked for a renewables supply for its own energy needs. This underpinned plans for the world’s biggest solar thermal plant – at Port Augusta.

Two major outside influences galvanised the renewables push. Firstly, Tesla’s Elon Musk fulfilled a promise to build the world’s biggest lithium ion battery in South Australia within 100 days. The effect of this plant on the national energy grid changed the issue from Australia having a peak load, not a baseload, power problem.

The other outside influence was the entrance of Whyalla steelworks new owner Sanjeev Gupta as an enthusiast for using renewables in industry. Battery backup has now become the essential part of the hundreds of megawatts being added to South Australia's wind and solar output.

South Australia is smoothing out the volatility when electricity prices spiked at $1,400 a megawatt-hour with claims that the state had the most expensive power in the world. This was blamed on the uneven flow of electricity from wind generators that requires expensive calls for gas-fired power during shortfalls. The Telsa battery has been effective in smoothing out energy supply volatility in South Australia and nationally.

The Liberal state government from 2018 has essentially maintained the renewables push. Its vision for a second $900m interconnector to the national electricity grid in New South Wales is partly based on being able to sell renewables energy to the eastern states. It also introduced a $100 million fund for means-tested grants averaging $2,500 to 40,000 homes to buy batteries to store power from rooftop solar panels – the panels that started South Australia's renewable revolution.




Early Adelaide homes, streets lit by candles and lamps fuelled by oil from whales or Egypt

From earliest settlement, Adelaide lit its streets and homes by candles and whale oil in lamps. Hotels were responsible for most of the lighting of the city's streets. As part of hotelkeepers' licences, they were required to provide a light over their front door, even after gas lighting of the streets started in 1865. Offenders were heavily fined and could lose their licence for repeated offences. This law remained until the 1870s. Some hotelkeepers were killed by falling off ladders trying to light their front lamps.Tallow candles were made in candle and soap factories in the city. One was the much-complained-of factory of Burford & Son, which caused a lot of pollution and was destroyed by fire several times, before being pressured to move from Grenfell Street, Adelaide. (This site was later taken over by the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company for a coal-fired powerhouse.) There was also the option to buy five-gallon jars of oil imported from Egypt. Until the former Lord Raglan Hotel was rebuilt at 109 Waymouth Street, Adelaide, in 1915, several walls of the former structure were made from these old oil jars about 400mm high. The publican, James Davey, was a contractor for importing the jars of oil but went out of business when gas was introduced. When he went into the hotel business, not wanting to waste his stock of jars, he used them to rebuild the Lord Raglan.

South Australian Gas Co. lighting Adelaide streets by 1865; fights introducing electricity

The South Australian Gas Company was incorporated by an act of the parliament in 1861. The company was supplying the gas that lit Adelaide streets by 1865. A chief promoter of the South Australian Gas Company and its first chairman was Henry Ayers, who become premier and was among prominent Adelaide residents enriched by the Burra Burra copper mines boom. The first coal-gas works were at Brompton with others at Port Adelaide, Glenelg, Thebarton, Osborne and regional areas after the Provincial Gas Company merged with the South Australian Gas Company in 1878. The gas company’s powerful shareholders resisted attempts to introduce electricity in Adelaide until 1895. To face electricity’s threat, the gas company (SAGASCO) opened a showroom in its Grenfell Street, Adelaide, headquarters in 1892. Moving to King William Street, Adelaide, in 1903, the company had female instructors demonstrate cooking and visit homes of people who’d bought stoves. In 1961, the SAGASCO still was one of South Australia’s major industries, serving 130,000 consumers and employing more than 1200. The company took a new direction in 1966, entering Australia’s first contract to buy natural gas. This coincided with the Moomba-to-Adelaide natural gas pipeline being built. As a distributor of natural gas from 1969, SAGASCO dismantled the coal-gas plants and cut its workforce. In 1988, the South Australian Gas Company merged with the South Australian Oil & Gas Corporation to form SAGASCO Holdings Group that, in 1993, became a subsidiary of Boral Limited.


Adelaide city gets its first electricity in 1900 after power companies break gas monopoly

Electricity for Adelaide in the late 19th Century was blocked for more than a decade by opponents who were mainly shareholders in the South Australian Gas Company. Telegraph supervisor Charles Todd, who arrived in South Australia in 1855, pioneered electrical telegraphic communications and introduced the idea of electricity for street lighting. The first public electricity supply in England in 1882 prompted a private member’s bill in the colonial parliament to create the South Australian Electric Company. In 1891-92, Adelaide City Council considered “electric lighting” as one of its most important questions and planned to light the streets from dusk to midnight. But it wasn't until 1895 that the South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company was registered and began supplying power to Port Adelaide from its Nile Street generator in 1899. In 1900, Adelaide got its electricity from a temporary generator in Tam O’Shanter Place, Adelaide, and, in 1901, a new coal-fired powerhouse in Grenfell Street, Adelaide, was opened, supplying North Adelaide by 1902.  South Australian Electric Light and Motive Power Company was bought by the Adelaide Electric Supply Company (set up in 1897) in 1904. It spread transmission into the suburbs, quickly gaining consumers, including the electric tramways. Faced with power demand well beyond its capacity of the Grenfell Street plant, by 1926 Adelaide Electric Supply had built substations extending transmission into the suburbs and rural areas. This was helped greatly by the cheap pole created by James Stobie, one of its engineers.



ETSA privatised 1999: sold to SA Power Networks and ElectraNet 

Adelaide Electric Supply nationalised as ETSA in 1946 coal dispute with premier Tom Playford

Adelaide Electric Supply Company was effective in developing an interconnected supply to South Australia’s major centres for the first half of the 20th Century. But the private monopoly, with headquarters in London, refused premier Tom Playford’s request that it use brown coal from Leigh Creek (started in 1943) instead of the the black coal it was shipping in from New South Wales. The company refused and went to the extent of buying boilers suited only for the black coal. This triggered the Playford Liberal Country League government’s move to nationalise Adelaide Electric Supply in 1946 and create the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA). The decision split the Liberal Country League Party and the nationalising only passed the parliament with the support of Labor and independent members. The Electricity Trust of South Australia powered the post-war growth and industrialisation of the South Australian economy, including providing modern and reliable electricity for regional areas. As the generator, distributor and retailer of electricity, ETSA developed energy sources (brown coal mined at Leigh Creek) and major power stations near Port Augusta (Playford B from1954 and Northern 1985) and on Torrens Island. ETSA expanded electricity distribution to areas where there was previously no or low supply. By the end of the Playford era, South Australia had one of the cheapest and most efficient electricity networks in the world. The same low price for electricity was charged in Mount Gambier as at the point of production on Torrens Island.


Electricity Trust of SA privatised in 1999; State Bank debt and national market cited as reasons

The Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA), the state-owned monopoly and vertically-integrated electricity supplier was privatised controversially in 1999. The State Bank collapse in the 1990s left the state government with a large debt. After the 1997 state election, the incumbent John Olsen Liberal government changed its pledge not to privatise ETSA. It cited the state’s dire financial situation and the effect of the new National Electricity Market. To enable the ETSA Corporation to be privatised, the Liberal government relied on the votes of Labor defectors Terry Cameron and Trevor Crothers plus independent Nick Xenophon. In a new deregulated market, the South Australian government retained ownership of the generation, transmission and distribution assets, with investors buying long-term leaseholds of the assets. The government also introduced industry regulation, calculated to ensure that the public interest was protected and that safety standards are maintained.The purchaser of the distribution business took the name ETSA Utilities (now SA Power Networks). The retailing component of ETSA was bought by AGL. With competition, other electricity retailers entered the marketplace, offering consumers choice on tariffs and discounts for “bundling” of gas and electricity supply from one retailer. Privatising ETSA led to Alinta taking over the Port Augusta’s coal-fed power stations (Playford B was mothballed in 2012) and AGL taking over the state’s largest (gas-fired) power station (1280MW), on Torrens Island, north of Port Adelaide. After deregulation of the state's electricity market in 2003, AGL's electricity prices increased by an average 23.7%.


SA Power Networks takes over ETSA's distribution; retailers manage the accounts

SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities), 51% owned by Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure part of the group of companies headed by Hong Kong-based La Ka-Shing's group of companies. The other 49% is owned by ASX-listed investment company Spark Infrastructure. SA Power Networks operates the former ETSA distribution network in mainly built-up areas of South Australia. It has thousands of kilometres of power lines and hundreds of substations within these built-up areas. SA Power Networks delivers electricity from the high-voltage network (run separately by ElectraNet) through poles and wires in built-up areas to properties or businesses; installs, maintains and reads meters; provides emergency responses to blackouts in built-up areas; and repairs street lighting. SA Power Networks also provides electrical infrastructure management, construction and maintenance for other businesses and government. Retailers, such as AGL and Origin, manage electricity consumers’ accounts, including billing and service enquiries. They organise connections and disconnections. In 2018, the federal court dismissed an appeal by SA Power Networks to charge more for distribution, meaning it will be able to raise $700 million less than sought up to 2020. The state government is responsible for off-grid power supply to remote communities.


ElectraNet runs long-distance high-voltage former ETSA lines across South Australia

ElectraNet operates the towers carrying high-voltage lines over long distances between built-up centres and to remote areas of South Australia. This is distinct from the low-voltage distribution lines managed by SA Power Networks in mainly built-up areas. ElectraNet, owned by Chinese State Grid Corporation 46.5%, YTL Power Investments 33.5% and Hastings Utilities Trust 20%, operates more than $2.5 billion of South Australian electricity assets. ElectraNet was responsible for the 22 towers and the three out of the four transmission lines moving power between Adelaide and the north of South Australia damaged in the 2016 storm that cut the state's general electricity feed. In 2011, the state government was investigating whether the capacity of transmission lines in South Australia could be increased to support renewable energy projects including wind energy.  The building that hosts ElectraNet’s corporate headquarters in Rymill Park in Adelaide city’s east end was originally used as an electrical converter station for Adelaide’s horse-drawn tramway system. The converter station was one of the first steps in modernising Adelaide’s public transport. The designers of the original converter station, English and Soward, also created many original buildings for the East End cultural precinct of Adelaide.


Moomba-Adelaide gas pipeline in 1960s; link to the national power grid via Heywood in 1990

The expanding electricity market in all states budged the start of a national gas pipeline network in the late 1960s. This meant building long pipelines, including a 780km natural gas line from Moomba in the Cooper Basin to Adelaide in 1969. Its gas was used at the Torrens Island power station. South Australia became linked in 1990 to New South Wales-Victoria electricity power sharing, via an interconnector at Heywood in Victoria where the Victorian ended its 500kV power line to the Portland smelter. Australia’s power grid links grew into the world’s largest, connecting South Australia with Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania over 5000 kilometres from Port Douglas in Queensland to Port Lincoln in South Australia. From 1998, this national synchronous transmission grid has brought into play the National Electricity Market (NEM), as the trading place for the Australian wholesale electricity market. More than $11 billion of electricity is traded annually in the NEM to service almost 19 million end-use consumers. South Australian both draws from and feeds into this national market of electricity trading. Main points of concern have been whether South Australian should have more than one main link to the national grid and whether the grid is geared to accommodate the entry of renewable energy in a market otherwise dominated by coal-fuelled power in the eastern states.

Interconnector to NSW central plank of Liberal party's energy policy for the 2018 state election

An extra $200 high-capacity interconnector to the national electricity market via New South Wales was a centrepiece of the South Australian Liberals energy policy before they were elected as state government in 2018. The Australian Energy Council, representing major electricity and gas wholesalers and retailers, supported the Liberal government’s national outlook away from a state-based renewables target. But it didn’t favour the NSW connector due to a threat of that state’s coal-power generators undercutting the prices of South Australian generators. South Australia’s transmission network provider ElectraNet put the case for 330kV line between South Australia’s mid-north and Wagga Wagga, via Buronga, to lower electricity prices, improve system security and lower carbon emissions. The 2018 South Australian Liberal government treasurer Rob Lucas oversaw privatising of Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA) assets during the previous Liberal government in 1999. To maximise the sale price of ETSA, Lucas killed a plan for a new interconnector to NSW. This left South Australia in the hands of a small oligopoly of generators and retailers, as represented by the Australian Energy Council.


encourages home solar, takes carbon-neutrality world leadership 

South Australia leads way toward wind farms: Michael Vawser inspires UK firm's move in 2002

South Australia was the first Australian state to introduce planning guidelines in 2002 for building wind farms on all rural-zoned land. It also offered payroll tax rebates for large renewable energy schemes. But the commercial thrust for wind farms in South Australia started in 1999 through Adelaide’s Michael Vawser, who was in the UK with a company called Wind Prospect. He convinced Wind Prospect to look at wind farms for South Australia that in 2003 only had one 0.15 MW wind turbine in Coober Pedy but the state had high-quality wind to exploit. From a close study of maps and South Australia’s then-advanced online land-ownership database, Vawser met land owners and signed up suitable sites for wind farms. Despite the Howard federal government’s Renewable Energy Target (requiring electricity retailers to source some energy from renewables), Wind Prospect was taking a gamble when it went ahead with wind farms at Carunda in the south east (46 megawatts from 23 turbines) and Mount Millar on Eyre Peninsula (70MW from 35 turbines). With a rigorous approach, born out of strict UK conservation laws, Wind Prospect had a 100% success rate in getting projects approved. It was central to 13 South Australian wind farms being OKd, mostly around the mid north.


Sixteen wind farms with 1473MW capacity in South Australia by 2016 – up from 34MW in 2004

In 2004, South Australia had 34MW of installed wind power capacity. In 2016, its 16 wind farms had an installed capacity of 1473 megawatts (MW) – about half of Australia’s installed capacity. The capacity of South Australian wind farms is usually 32-38%, averaged over a year. At peak performance, wind farms have set records for power supply in South Australia and provided an average 7% of Victoria’s electricity demand and more than 5% across the National Electricity Market. Well-established South Australian wind farms include: Snowtown (369 MW), Hallett (350 MW), Lake Bonney (278.5 MW), Waterloo (111 MW, being increased in 2016), Wattle Point (91 MW),  Mount Millar (70 MW), Cathedral Rocks (66 MW), Clements Gap (56 MW), Canunda (46 MW) and Starfish Hill (34.5 MW). In 2015, the Hornsdale 270 MW wind farm project at Jamestown in South Australia’s mid north was awarded a contract to supply 100 MW of electricity to 56,000 homes in Canberra –  13% of the Australian Capital Territory’s projected electricity demand by 2020. Owned by French company Neoen International SAS, Hornsdale wind farm feeds the Tesla 100MW battery lithium ion installed in 2017.

Rooftop solar panels in South Australia set new trends for minimal midday power demand

South Australia has led Australia with the highest per capita takeup of household solar power. Although it’s being overtaken by other states, South Australia in 2018 had solar PV on 31% of its houses. In 2017, South Australia recorded days with rooftop solar supplying 48% of the state’s power and pushing grid demand to a record low. South Australia is the first state where rooftop solar PV caused a shift in minimum demand from night time to the middle of the day (most states still have electric hot water switched on at night). In September 2006, premier Mike Rann announced that an electricity grid feed-in tariff scheme for solar systems) would come into force in 2008 and run out on 2028. This scheme went with an educational program that involved installing PVs on the roofs of major public buildings such as the Adelaide airport, state parliament, the South Australian Museum, art gallery and several hundred public schools. Rann, who wanted the government to be carbon neutral by 2020, Rann announced $8 million worth of solar panels in 2008 for the roof of the new Goyder Pavilion at Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the largest rooftop solar installation in Australia, qualifying it for official power station status.

State government and city council in world-first push in 2015 for carbon-neutral Adelaide

The South Australian government and Adelaide City Council in 2015 formed a globally unique partnership to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2050. Despite doubters, the city council has maintained confidence in the target year, reduced to 2025, pointing to a 15% drop on carbon emissions during a 46% rise in residents, 35% more student enrolments and 42% more daily city users. In 2016, the state government and the City of Adelaide released the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan. Among its strategies were investing in energy efficiency and renewables, installing solar PV on low-income housing, laws to allow building owners to access private finance to upgrade buildings’ energy efficiency, investing in low emission public transport and encouraging cycling and walking; accelerating the use of electric vehicles, and reducing emissions from waste,. The Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards, introduced in 2017, showcased community leaders and active contributors to the goal of City of Adelaide becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city. The awards incorporated the CitySwitch Green Office run successfully since 2008.


South Australia leads Australia in 2015 by going global in goal to be a carbon-neutral state

The South Australian Labor state government in 2015 set a bold target of making the state carbon neutral by 2050. By 2017, it had already met its renewable energy production target of 50% by 2025 (compared to New South Wales’ 20%), up from 40% generated in 2016. South Australia also has been active in the international global warming effort. At the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, South Australia was the first Australian state to sign up to an international agreement – the Under2MOU – to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. South Australia was Australia’s first state to put in place laws committing to renewable energy and emissions reduction. It legislated in 2015 to cut South Australian carbon emissions by at least 60% (on 1990 levels) by 2050. Emissions are already 9% lower than 1990 levels while the state's economy grew beyond 60%. Under South Australia’s low carbon investment plan, the state Labor government targeted 100% renewable energy electricity for its own use. It also aimed to improve government operations, including the energy efficiency of its buildings and reducing emissions from the government fleet


Jay Weatherill lifts the renewable energy target to 75% by 2025 and Liberals unable to resist

Labor state premier Jay Weatherill upped the stakes by promising a 75% renewables energy target by 2025 in the 2018 election campaign, with 48.9% achieved at that stage. He also set an Australian-first renewable battery storage target of 750MW by 2025. Weatherill’s bid to make the election a poll on renewables wasn't fruitless: Labor, seeking a fifth term,had a vote up by 1.5% on a two-party preferred. The Liberals triumphed (though 7% down) and new premier Steven Marshall said his party would scrap the renewable energy target because it'd push up power prices. It also intended to kill the Tesla plan for the world’s biggest virtual power plant with batteries for low-income homes. But reaction, through social media such as RenewEconomy, soon forced Liberal partial support for the virtual power plant and acceptance of the 75% renewables target. With 13 big projects on the way, the Australian Energy Market Operator projected South Australia would have 73% renewable power by 2020/21 and Green Energy Markets put it at 74% in 2025 without additional policies. New South Australian energy and mining minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan told a national energy storage conference the Liberal government wouldn't end clean energy in the state: “It is being driven by the fundamental economics of clean energy ... South Australia will lead and show the world how a sensible transition can be done.”


blacks out state and operator errors plunge 90,000 into darkness

Shutdown of the Port Augusta station ends state's era of power from Leigh Creek coal

South Australia was left without any of its own coal-fired energy sources when Alinta Energy shut down Port Augusta’s 540MW northern power station in May 2016. The northern power station was the last remnant of the government-run Electricity Trust of South Australia plant that was privatised in the 1990s. Alinta said it couldn’t afford to keep running the Port Augusta power station, which sourced coal from the now-defunct Leigh Creek field, because of competition from renewable energy. Alinta's withdrawal left South Australia’s electricity market dependent on solar and wind power for more than 40% of its generating capacity, with an interconnector to Victoria's brown coal power stations covering only about a quarter of demand. The price of gas, forced up by supplies diverted to export, also affected gas-fired power stations. The shutdown of Port Augusta power station became an ongoing issue, especially in the wake of the September 2016 state-wide blackout. The state's Liberal opposition said Alinta Energy had asked for $25 million in state government support to keep the plant operating until 2018. Without revealing the amount, the Labor government replied that Alinta had asked for more money than that and its offer “wouldn’t have suited South Australia’s power needs”.  the national Australian Energy Market Operator said that because of so many variable factors, there was no proof that keeping the Port Augusta power station open could have prevented the blackout and that the station “has in the past been the cause of massive load shedding, itself”. The debate over the privatising of ETSA was also revived. Against arguments that the ETSA was necessary are the counter that it had hurt competition and pricing by leaving South Australia’s power supply in too few private hands.


AGL, Origin and Energy Australia enjoy 70% of South Australia's gas power and retail mart

South Australia has a high concentration of gas-power generators owned by only a few businesses. AGL supplies 48% of the state’s retail customers and controls 42% of generation. The big three — AGL, Origin, Energy Australia (Simply Energy) — have 70%-plus of the market. They combine the role of generators and retailers: “gentailors”. These gentailors were blamed by the state Labor government for using a lack of competition to force up electricity prices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said limited access to hedging contracts is “a significant concern in South Australia” and a barrier to more competition. Power retailers (Alinta, Red Energy, Power Direct) and big electricity users often enter hedge contracts with generators to lessen exposure to market volatility. In South Australia, not many hedge contracts are signed. Big power retailers who also own generation (the gentailors) like AGL and Origin can hedge their own risk. The ACCC also showed that, while many price hikes in the eastern states were due to network costs (poles, wires), South Australia's price hikes were caused by generation costs. The Essential Services Commission of SA found major retailers' price rises could be justified by the wholesale cost of electricity. But it suggested concentrated ownership of generators could limit retail electricity competition in South Australia.

South Australia's gas power output reduced: blamed on the inroads of wind and solar energy

The advent of wind and solar energy into the South Australian electricity market prompted the mothballing of chunks of the state’s gas-fired generation. In 2014, the four older units at AGL Torrens’ A station were shut down and, in 2015, more than half of Pelican Point station’s potential 479MW output was reduced to 230MW. AGL deferred the mothballing of four Torrens A ageing turbines after Alinta Energy’s’s Northern and AGL’s Playford B coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta were closed in 2016. AGL Torrens, on Torrens Island 18km northwest of Adelaide CBD, is South Australia’s largest power station and Australia’s largest natural-gas-fired power station. With a name plate capacity of 1,280MW, the Torrens Island station's natural gas is supplied via the SEAGas pipeline from Victoria and from Moomba in the Cooper Basin. The plant’s ‘A’ Station began operating in 1967 and the ‘B’ Station was completed in 1976. Pelican Point is one of Australia’s most advanced, efficient and environmentally friendly gas power stations.  Built in 1999, Pelican Point, on LeFevre Peninsula next to the Port River, began generating electricity in 2000, using a combined-cycle gas turbine to produce 479 MW of electricity – capable of supplying about 25% of South Australia’s needs. It also sources gas from Moomba and the Victorian SEAGas pipeline. Pelican Point has an energy efficiency of more than 50%, compared with older power stations at less than 35%. Pelican Point's majority joint owner is French company Engie (72%).


Major 2016 storm blacks out all South Australia; power cuts in error to 90,000 homes in 2017

A once-in-50-years storm in September 2016 damaged critical infrastructure in South Australia, causing a state-wide blackout and leaving 1.7 million residents without electricity. This event  sparked a national debate over the South Australia’s potential 50% use of renewable solar and wind. The blackout gave the coal industry, with vigorous support by conservative media outlets, a chance to lambast renewables. It was followed by two big power cuts in the 2016-17 summer. On February 8, 2017 – hot with low wind-energy output – load shedding ordered by the Australian Energy Market Authority (AEMO) meant 90,000 South Australian customers were left without power. A report revealed AEMO had incorrectly forecast electricity demand. This was compounded by other errors, raising the question of South Australia’s reliance on the national and state private electricity market. The February 8 events prompted the state government to declare the “national electricity market is broken. It’s a private market for private companies that puts profits before people.”

Pelican Point gas power station back to full capacity in 2017 after Origin fixed-charge deal

South Australia's Pelican Point power station in 2017 returned to its full available capacity of 479 megawatts by Engie – the company that closed its 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria. (Engie had shut down the second gas turbine at Pelican Point in 2015, arguing it couldn’t compete with wind energy.) The reopening of the turbine has been enabled by Engie’s agreement with Origin Energy to provide 240MW of Pelican Point power for a fixed charge. Origin said the agreement, from 2017-2020, would better position Pelican Point to support peak demand over the 2017/18 summer. Increased supply from Pelican Point was a big factor in pushing wholesale power prices down in South Australia. The state government said the Engie-Origin gas-fired power deal wouldn't have been reached if Port Augusta's coal-powered station stayed open. Alinta Energy, which ran the coal-fired Playford A and B and Northern Power stations at Port Augusta before closing them all by 2016 due to “unfavourable market conditions”, sought a permit in 2017 for a 300-megawatt gas-fired power station north of Adelaide, to cost $450 million. Alinta said the project hadn't been put off by the state government’s intervention in the South Australian electricity market.

Tesla big battery from December 2017 ends very costly reliance on gas plants via FCAS

October 2018 brought an end to a requirement for 35MW of South Australia’s power to be provided by local frequency and ancillary services (FCAS) when there was risk of the state’s grid separating from the rest of the national grid. Introduced in late 2015, the 35MW requirement was designed to ensure that the state’s grid – with a high percentage of renewable energy – could operate securely by itself. Up to four major gas generators, the sole providers of FCAS in South Australia, charged price rises of nearly 100-fold to the market cap of $14,000/MWh when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) made the precautionary call for local backup. This sent the cost of FCAS for such events up to $6 million a day. The total cost from several dozen events totalled $109 million in 2016-17, with costs passed on to wind farms and other big energy consumers. On a single day in October 2016, the FCAS within South Australia exceeded $4.5 million. The reliance on the gas generators was broken with the entry of the Tesla 129MW battery and its Hornsdale Power Reserve wind farm becoming FCAS providers in December 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, the cost of FCAS fell by nearly $33 million or 57%, AEMO said, largely because of the Tesla big battery. Engineering and advisory firm Aurecon’s analysis showed the sharp spikes in FCAS prices during bottlenecks on the network in 2016-17 were markedly absent in 2018 despite similar grid constraints, while prices overall were about 75% lower on average.


$550m 6-point approach; Liberal government adapts/adds to it

South Australian energy minister gets emergency control in Labor's $550m six-point plan in 2017

The South Australian Labor government’s go-it-alone $550 million six-point response to the power blackout events of 2016-17 included giving the state’s energy minister the immediate powers to take back control by overriding national regulators and forcing power stations to fire up their generators in times of need. Other elements of the six-point plan were • a state-government-owned gas-fired power plant for emergency backup response, • building Australia’s biggest battery, • the government to buy all its electricity for its own needs from a new privately-owned Aurora solar thermal power station at Port Augusta  • encouraging more exploration for natural gas in the state, • an energy security target and • a $150 million renewable technology fund. The vision for Australia’s biggest battery turned into the world’s biggest 100MW lithium battery, built by Tesla’s Elon Musk and Neoen near Jamestown, as the successful tenderer. The $50 million for the battery came out of the $150 million new renewable technology fund. The elements of Labor's six-point plan were inherited by the Liberal government elected in March 2018. 


Elon Musk's Tesla big battery offer boosts South Australian 2017 six-point energy plan

A tweet from Tesla owner Elon Musk, saying he could help fix South Australia’s energy problems in 100 days “or it’s free”, tied in ideally with the state government’s move to have a 100MW battery installed as part of its $550 million six-point energy plan in 2017. Tesla was successful among about 90 bidders to build the battery. By December 2017, the world’s biggest lithium ion battery was operating into the national power grid. The battery draws its power from the Hornsdale wind farm, operated by France’s renewable energy giant Neoen. The Tesla 100MW/129MWh lithium ion battery was three times larger than the previous largest in the world. It gave commercial advantages, value adding and international exposure. But the value of the Tesla Jamestown battery is measured in milliseconds. Its role – and it soon showed this in the national grid – is a quick response to controlling power frequency. Frequency changes, that can cause shutdowns through tripping, are a major challenge in the national grid for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Lithium ion batteries are perfectly suited to making millisecond injections of power to correct blips when the balance between supply and demand is skewed. Lithium batteries are quicker to respond than coal-fired power stations and pumped hydro. This quick response, vital to keeping a dynamic grid stable, is their value. They don't provide baseload power over a long time.

Aurora solar plant project at Port Augusta to supply government energy falls through

The 150MW $650 million Aurora solar thermal power plant project at Port Augusta – to be the biggest of its kind in the world – collapsed under a lack of funding in April 2019. In 2017, the Labor state government gave SolarReserve the contract to supply all the government’s electricity needs through its 150MW $650 million Aurora solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta: the biggest of its kind in the world. The government power supply contract underwrote the entry of the Port Augusta solar thermal plant, due to be ready in 2020. Until then, SIMEC Zen Energy, a new South Australian electricity retailer, would supply more than 80% – rising to 100% in 2019 –  of the state government’s power needs. The deal, part of bringing more competition to the South Australian electricity market under the Labor government’s 2017 $550 million energy plan, made the government the first customer for SIMEC Zen Energy, a merger of GFC Alliance (the family company linked to new Whyalla steelworks owner Sanjeev Gupta) and leading Adelaide solar/battery energy company Zen Energy.

$150 million funding to encourage and finance ideas for a whole range of renewable energy

The Labor state government’s $150 million Renewable Technology Fund was part of its $550 million 2017 energy plan. The fund was $75 million in grants and $75 million in loans or other help for private innovative companies and entrepreneurs. Most notably, $50 million from this fund was paid towards Elon Musk's Tesla 100MW lithium ion battery near Jamestown. Companies from around the world submitted almost 60 proposals to the fund. Proposals include next generation renewable energy and energy storage technologies, including batteries, bioenergy, pumped hydro, thermal, compressed air and flywheel. Adelaide-based company 1414 Degrees submitted three proposals, including a pilot 10MWh thermal storage project to allow SA Water to store some energy it generates from biogas produced at the Glenelg wastewater treatment plant. The company was also developing a “silicon battery” that stores heat and energy. The 1414 technology, while often described as a “battery”, actually focuses more on heat storage and sees its biggest potential market in places like Europe, which relies heavily on district heating, particularly in winter,

90,000 homes target of world's biggest virtual power plant and Libs' home battery scheme

Potentially, 90,000 South Australia homes will get home batteries to support their rooftop solar panels under two schemes started in 2018: the world’s biggest virtual power plant, initiated by Tesla and the Labor state government, followed by the home battery scheme promoted by the incoming Liberal state government. After initial doubts, the new Liberal government has backed the Tesla virtual power plant to install batteries with solar rooftop panels at 50,000 homes. A trial on 1,100 low-income homes was successful and the rest of the program would depend of private funding and final design agreement. Running parallel to the Tesla virtual power plant would be the Liberal state government home battery scheme for 40,000 South Australians to access grants of up to $6,000 to help pay for installing a home battery system from October 2018. This home battery revolution has added to the attractions for German energy storage giant Sonnen, Chinese battery maker Alpha-ESS and Canadian battery storage innovator Eguana Technologies to bring hundreds of advanced manufacturing jobs to South Australia in the wake of its renewables energy revolution.

World battery makers converge on Adelaide, attracted by renewables revolution in the state

German energy storage giant Sonnen, Chinese battery maker Alpha-ESS and Canadian battery storage innovator Eguana Technologies have been attracted to South Australia, bringing hundreds of advanced manufacturing  jobs in the wake of its renewables energy revolution. Sonnen announced its battery-making factory (later confirmed to be based at the former General Motors-Holden car plant in Elizabeth) in February 2018 under the Labor state government, saying South Australia had an overall environment that was “best in the world to sell energy storage”.  The new Liberal government’s $200m home battery scheme – to provide 40,000 SA households with access to subsidies and low-interest loans of up to $6000 to install home battery systems – boosted the lure for manufacturers. Sonnen, Alpha-ESS and Eguana Technologies are approved suppliers for the home battery scheme. Sonnen plans to assemble and make 50,000 energy storage systems ­– an amount that could supply up to 150 megawatts of electricity to the grid: equivalent to a gas-fired peaking power station. Eguana Technologies said its announcement confirmed South Australia as a world leader in solar and battery technology. South Australia’s requirement for smart batteries was the first of its kind.

Generators for Labor's government-owned backup power station to be leased by Liberals

Nine generators for a proposed $360 million 250MW government-owned emergency-backup gas-fired power station in South Australia, part of the state Labor government’s 2017 $550 million energy plan, will instead be leased over 25 years to private interests by the Liberal government elected in 2018. The gas plant using the generators, at Bolivar north of Adelaide, were to be the first state-owned electricity infrastructure since the Liberal government privatised the Electricity Trust of South Australia in 1999. The 250MW fast-start power plant was to supply 10% of the state’s energy quickly in an emergency, provide year-round grid stability and help avoid the blackout events of 2016-17. South Australia’s biggest private power provider AGL told investors the state-owned 250-megawatt plant was the “most problematic” part of the state government’s energy plan because the government plant was likely to compete in the electricity market. The Labor government responded that AGL’s monopoly, as owner of one of the largest power stations after ETSA was privatised, have been charging “extraordinary (power) prices to South Australians”. The new Liberal state government in 2018 decided not to sell off the generators but to lease them long-term to a private company that would make them available for emergency use.

South-east 10-year ban on fracking by the Liberals, after Labor lifts gas-search funds

A decade-long ban on hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in South Australia's Limestone Coast region was put in place by the Liberal state government in 2018. It supported a bill put forward by Mount Gambier independent MP Troy Bell, a former Liberal, who reflected concerns in the state’s south east about effects of gas extraction on the areas limestone aquifers. South Australia’s Cooper Basin has seen fracking for almost 50 years. The previous Labor state government announced $24 million to encourage more gas exploration. The PACE (Plan for Accelerating Exploration) Gas grants were part of the government’s six-point 2017 energy plan, aiming for more South Australian gas to replace coal-fired energy from Victoria. Examples of PACE Gas grants include: $6.89 million for the Santos-Beach Cooper Basin project to deploy a heat-energy recovery to offset natural gas used to run the Moomba petroleum processing; $5.26 million for the Senex Cooper Basin Gemba exploration/appraisal; $6.89 million for Beach /Cooper Energy’s Dombey project in the Otway Basin and $4.95 million to the Rawson/Vintage Nangwarry project in the Otway Basin. A new, but controversial, source in South Australia may be from the underground coal gasification project that was being trialled in 2018 at the old Leigh Creek mine site in the state's north.


plus other international investments and local grassroots push

Sundrop Farms, world first with food from solar power, starts Port Augusta transition

Sundrop Farms, a $100 million plant next to Spencer Gulf, in 2016 led Port Augusta's transition from a coal-fired power station town to a solar industry region. Sunrop Farms, just south of Port Augusta, as the world’s first large concentrated solar power to provide multiple energy streams – heating, fresh water, electricity – for horticulture. Its greenhouse is in a warm-climate area lacking rainfall where traditional horticulture isn’t feasible. By applying its proprietary technologies, Sundrop Farms have been growing delicious, natural and high-quality produce, using Southern Ocean seawater and sunlight. Its water comes from the Spencer Gulf and is desalinated using a cutting edge thermal desalination plant. It uses a state-of-the-art solar tower to produce energy to desalinate the water, power the plant-growing systems and to heat and cool the greenhouses as required. topped by a 234-tonne central boiler, the 115m tower has 23,000 mirrors pointed at it. Sundrop secured a 10-year supply agreement with supermarket chain Coles that underpinned the Port Augusta project. Sundrop Farms can produce 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year using 22.5% less land than more traditional field production and uses significantly less water. Having moved its global headquarters from London to Adelaide in 2017, Sundrop is now looking to for opportunities to expand in Australia and abroad now that it has proved the decoupling of traditional greenhouse reliance on fossil fuels and freshwater reserves.



Joy Baluch's long fight to replace dirty coal ash with renewables won by Repower Port Augusta

Joy Baluch, Port Augusta’s mayor 1981-93 and 1995-2013, campaigned during her Australian record term of 29 years for solar-thermal technology to replace the city’s coal-fired power stations. She became involved in local politics because of her son’s severe asthma that she blamed on the ash from lowest-quality Leigh Creek lignite coal burnt at the power stations. That ash was dumped on the city 60 years, at the level of 15 tonnes a day in the early years. A belated study of lung cancer rates in Port Augusta showed double the average rate but the state government tried to blame it on smoking. Baluch’s husband, who worked in the power stations, died of lung cancer 16 years before her, though he didn’t smoke. Baluch died in 2013 but her daughter Lisa Lumsden took over her fight in 2011 for solar thermal technology to replace the city’s ageing coal-fired electricity generators, although conscious of its 200 jobs. She was part of community group Repower Port Augusta who saw that, with climate change, dirty coal ash and a 60-year-old power station, change was inevitable. Repower Port Augusta's research found solar thermal technology exactly suited the city’s environment. The group's local campaign went state-wide then national. In 2017, when the $650 million 150MW Aurora solar thermal power plant – the biggest of its kind in the world – was given the OK, it became part of a clutch of renewables projects around the city

Repower Port Augusta attracts SolarReserve huge solar thermal plant – but lost in 2019

The Repower Port Augusta campaign that attracted a major solar thermal project to the city in 2017 had a disappointing sequel in 2019 when the company behind it withdrew, citing a lack of funding. California-based company SolarReserve had chosen Port Augusta as the site for its Aurora $650 million solar thermal power plant. With the world’s largest single tower, the Aurora plant was to use technology developed by California-based company SolarReserve to store energy in molten salt for eight to 10 hours – an advantage over solar photovoltaic or wind power. Underwriting the project, SolarReserve in 2017 won the contract to supply all the South Australian government’s own energy needs (electrified trains, schools, hospitals) with a solar thermal plant. The project was also given a federal government $110 million concessional equity loan in 2016, in a deal arranged with senator Nick Xenophon. Sited at Carriewerloo Station, the Aurora 150MW plant was to generate 495 gigawatt hours of electricity each year – equivalent to servicing 90,000 homes and around 5% of South Australia’s total needs. The South Australian government was to pay Solar Reserve $75-$78/MWh for power from Aurora. South Australia has no coal-fired power plants since the Northern power station in Port Augusta closed in 2016. After the closure, Repower Port Augusta community group lobbied for the plant to be converted to renewable energy not only for clean energy but also jobs that the project might bring to the town. SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes in the Nevada desert uses an identical technology. 


Bungala solar farm near Port Augusta owned by big Italian and Dutch renewables investors

About 10 kilometres north east of Port Augusta, the 220MW Bungala solar farm – Australia’s largest – will sell its all renewable power to Origin Energy. It is now owned by two of Europe’s biggest renewables investors: Italy’s Enel Green Energy and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund. The two first stages of Bungala, built by Spanish company Elecnor, will be battery storage ready and are likely to be the first major solar farm in Australia’s FCAS (frequency control and ancillary services) market, using SMA inverters to provide voltage control for the grid. Framed by the Flinders Ranges, stage one of the Bungala solar farm stretches over 300 hectares of land owned by the Bungala Aboriginal Corporation. Bungala uses a solar photovoltaic technology, with 840,000 tilting panels to follow the Sun east to west. The two stages cover more than 800 hectares — an expanse nearly as big as the Melbourne CBD — and will generate up to 570 gigawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power about 82,000 households. A third stage, with battery storage, taking capacity to 300MW is on hold after the project failed to win a contract to supply electricity to the state government. Bungala is South Australia’s the first large-scale solar farm.The previous largest solar farms were only 4.9MW in Peterborough and 6.6MW in Whyalla.

Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park to be the nation's largest solar-wind power station

The $680 million Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park, being developed by Irish renewables company DP Energy, is set to become Australia’s largest hybrid renewable power station and confirm Port Augusta as the nation’s green energy capital. Near the former Northern coal-fired power station and beside Spencer Gulf, the renewable park will generate around 1000gW hours of clean renewable energy into the grid each year, about enough to power 200,000 homes and save 470,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. It will include 59 wind turbines and almost 400ha of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays for a combined generation capacity of up to 375mW. The ground-breaking project will see wind turbines and solar photovoltaic modules covering about 5400 hectares from Port Paterson to Winninowie and spanning Highway One. Stage Two will have 500MW of solar photovoltaic generation, 400MW battery storage and 3000MW seconds of synchronous condenser. The batteries and synchronous condensers will help stabilise the grid and help the network cut potential blackouts. Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park is seen as the power station of the future: matching capabilities of fossils-fuelled power stations but using solar, wind, storage and a synchronous condenser instead.

Lincoln Gap near Port Augusta to have wind, solar, battery and hydro pumped possibilities

Lincoln Gap, 12 kilometres west of Port Augusta, is set to become a renewables hotbed with two major projects. The Goat Hill closed-loop inland pumped storage hydro project moved into detailed design and contract phase in 2018 after South Australian government approval. And the 212MW Lincoln Gap wind farm moved into stage two of construction in 2018, adding the final 24 turbines and 86MW of generation. Singapore-based project developer Nexif Energy secured funding for  the second stage of the $480 million wind farm, after a $160 million debt deal was closed with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and infrastructure investment company Westbourne Capital. Stage two would add to the 126MW from 35 wind turbines constructed by Senvion. Once completed, the wind farm would have 59 Senvion 3.6M140 turbines and a total capacity of over 212MW, producing enough energy for 155,000 South Australian homes. Siemens/AES joint venture Fluence would deliver a 10MW/10MWh battery storage system to integrate the wind farm’s output to the National Electricity Market. Lincoln Gap is one of the first hybrid renewable and storage projects to secure non-subsidised financing. It has potential to expand by adding solar to the wind energy and battery storage to create a genuine hybrid energy hub. The 230MW/1840MWh Goat Hill pumped hydro project at Lincoln Gap needed investment of about $410 million. Delta Electricity had the development rights, with Altura Group as the project developer. The South Australian government committed $4.7m to allow final project development.

Sanjeev Gupta’s Port 
 battery gazumps Elon
 Musk’s at Jamestown

South Australia been the scene for an interplay by two of the world's most prominent corporate renewables warriors. SIMEC ZEN Energy, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, will make Port Augusta the home to the most powerful lithium ion battery in the world at 120MW, eclipsing Jamestown where Elon Musk’s Tesla built its 100MW battery in 2017. The Port Augusta project ­– part of the company's US$1 billion one‐gigawatt dispatchable renewable energy program in the upper Spencer Gulf – will be helped by a $10 million loan under the Labor state government’s 2017 Renewable Technology Fund. The Port Augusta battery claims more advanced technology than Jamestown's Tesla battery and was being planned before Elon Musk’s Twitter pledge to build his project. The SIMEC ZEN battery will be harnessed to a 280MW solar farm at Cultana, near Whyalla, to give energy security for that city's steelworks taken over by Gupta’s company in 2017. Cultana solar farm (first of two) will have 780,000 solar panels supplying I,600 gigawatt hours of generation per year: enough to power 96,000 homes. A British billionaire, Sanjeev Gupta is expanding the steelworks with a trail-blazing greensteel strategy using renewable energy to lift efficiencies and boost control over its process.

Cultana solar farm will support Sanjeev Gupta's 'green metal' vision for his Whyalla steelworks

The 280MW Cultana solar farm, to be built near Whyalla in 2019, will be the first project in a $1 billion nationwide renewable energy program by Sanjeev Gupta's SIMEC ZEN Energy. The Cultana solar farm will give greater energy security to the expanded Whyalla Liberty OneSteel steelworks. The farm’s 600GWh of energy generated each year also could power about 96,000 homes. It will have 780,000 solar panels spread across 11 square kilometres, an area 550 times larger than Adelaide Oval. A second SIMEC ZEN solar project would be built nearby, with even larger projects to follow in other states. British billionaire Gupta is aiming for 1,000 megawatts of solar power in South Australia. With his 'green metal' ambitions in other industries, his commitment may be as much as 10 gigawatts of solar across Australia. He has described renewable power as the "ultimate liberator" to energy-intensive industries like the Whyalla steelworks. His parent company, GFG Alliance, announced a $700 million solar, battery and pumped hydro project to power the steelworks. It would include 200MW of Cultana solar, a 100MWh battery storage facility at Port Augusta, 120MW/600MWh pumped hydro storage in a disused mining pit in the Middleback Ranges, and 100MW of demand response at the steelworks and other industrial sites.

Old iron ore mine to be hydro energy plant in Sanjeev Gupta's green vision for steelworks

The disused Iron Duchess North iron ore mine pit in the South Middleback Ranges, west of Whyalla, could be turned into a $170-million 90MW/390MWh pumped hydro energy four-hour storage plant by 2022, after receiving $500,000 each from both the South Australian Labor government’s Renewable Technology Fund and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) towards a $1.7 million feasibility study by Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance subsidiary SIMEC ZEN Energy. Gupta’s 2017 purchase of the Whyalla steelworks included the iron ore mine in nearby Middleback Ranges. As part of his greensteel vision for industry vertically integrated with renewables, the disused Iron Duchess North mine would be the lower reservoir for a pumped hydro energy storage.The Middleback Ranges hydro power will be balanced with Gupta’s large Cultana solar farm, to maintain a cheap reliable supply of energy to his expanded Whyalla Liberty OneSteel steelworks. Hydro works by pumping water uphill between linked reservoirs when electricity is cheap and abundant, and running water downhill to power turbines when electricity is needed. In 2018, Gupta announced $600 million projects for Whyalla steelworks including a rolling mill to be completed with Italian metal firm Danieli and a pulverized coal injection plant, to be built by CISDI Engineering, a Chinese corporation run by the China Metallurgical Group Corporation.


plus 1414 Degrees South Australian innovation a global contender

Major and small solar power farm projects keep on spreading across South Australia

The beams of South Australian solar energy farm projects – either under way or proposed – continued to spread in 2017-18. A 100MW solar-power battery-ready Tailem Solar project by Equis Energy at Tailem Bend will serve customers of Snowy Hydro, the fourth-biggest retailer in the national electricity market. It will produce enough energy to power 41,600 homes from 2019 and an extra 111MW solar plan is being planned. Tilt Renewables says the Snowtown site of its 44MW solar farm, to accompany a wind farm, has potential for 300MW of solar. Smaller farms such as Peterborough (4.9MW by Renew Power), Port Pirie (6MW, Renew Power) and Whyalla (6MW, SSE) are filling out the South Australian solar scene alongside big projects including Port Augusta region’s 150MW Aurora solar tower and molten salt storage (150MW, Solar Reserve), Bungala (220MW, Enel Green; Dutch Infrastructure Fund), Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park (500Mw, DP Energy); Whyalla’s Cultana (280MW, SIMEC ZEN) and Adani Renewables 140MW propsal; and Crystal Brook Energy Park (150MW, Neoen). Lyon Group’s $700 million Riverland Solar Storage's 330MW near Cadell ­– promoted as Australia’s biggest –  would have 3.4 million solar panels. Lyon is also building the Kingfisher solar farm (100MW) at Roxby Downs.

Neoen's Crystal Brook Energy Park works hard to win over opponents of its 26 tall wind turbines

The wind factor was central to the Crystal Brook Energy Park winning approval in 2018. Responding to feedback from the local community and Port Pirie Council, the project’s developer, French company Neoen, reduced the wind turbines proposed by more than 50% to 26 to ensure a generous buffer between the project and the Flinders Ranges. The tallest of the 26 wind turbines be 240 metres high – 40 metres bigger than any others in Australia. The site was identified as a potential wind and solar farm in 2010 but Origin Energy dropped a planned 40-turbine wind farm in 2012. In 2016, local land owners and project supporters found a preferred partner in Neoen. After two years of development and engaging with the community, Neoen took the Crystal Brook Energy Park plan to the State Commission Assessment Panel in 2018, with more than 260 Crystal Brook residents objecting on noise, health, tourism, television reception and land-value grounds. Originally called a hydrogen superhub, $500 million energy park vision was to produce 150MW of wind plus 150MW solar with a 50MW hydrogen plant and 400MWh  battery storage. The South Australian government committed $25 million to Neoen to finalise plans and start construction, pending approval.

Snowtown, Dalrymple, Crystal Brook, Cadell, Lake Bonney among sites for more batteries

A pack of other South Australian battery projects was in place in 2018, adding to biggest Tesla 100MW plant at Jamestown, SIMEC ZEN Energy’s 110MW plan for Port Augusta. In 2017, the Lyon Group announced a 100MW/400MWh battery for its Riverland Solar Storage to go with its 330MW solar PV farm near Cadell on the western edge of South Australia's Riverland about 120 kilometres east of Adelaide but its start has been pushed back to 2019. Neoen’s Crystal Brook Energy Park would have up to 130MW/400MWh of lithium ion battery storage supporting to up to 125MW wind generation from 26 turbines and up to 150MW solar generation. Already firing were ElectraNet’s 30MW 8MWh large battery at Dalrymple substation on lower Yorke Peninsula, linked to Wattle Point wind farm. A $38 million Tesla 25MW/52MWh battery plant is set to be operating by 2019 at Infigen Energy’s wind farm at Lake Bonney near Mount Gambier. At Snowtown, a 21MW/26MWh battery with a 44MW solar farm (next to a projected three wind farms with a 370MW capacity) was supported by the state government through $7.1 million from the Renewable Technology Fund. The Lincoln Gap wind farm near Port Augusta will have a 10MW grid battery.

Old Highbury quarry in the Adelaide foothills among sites for pumped hydro energy proposals

Tilt Renewables’ plan for a $440 300MW/1350MWh project using the Highbury quarry in Adelaide’s north-eastern foothills; Altura Group’s $410 million 230MW/1840MWh vision for Goat Hill, near Port Augusta; and SIMEC ZEN’s $170-million 90MW/390MWh proposal, employing the disused Iron Duchess North iron ore mine pit in the South Middleback Ranges, west of Whyalla; were the major pumped hydro energy prospects for South Australia in 2018. Pumped hydro works by pumping water uphill between two connected reservoirs when electricity is cheap and abundant, and running water downhill to power turbines when electricity is needed. More than 180 potential South Australian sites for pumped hydro energy – one of the cheapest ways to store energy – have been identified by Australian National University research, also backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Previous studies had identified six potential sites for a pumped hydro plant, including on Yorke Peninsula. South Australia is the only state that doesn’t have a hydro energy plant. About 400 hectares of reservoir – four parts per million of South Australia’s land mass – for pumped hydro energy would support a 100% renewable energy grid for the state that has a peak demand of 3000MW. The water needed for this would be less than 1% of that extracted annually by South Australia from the River Murray.

Crystal Brook, Tonsley, Port Lincoln hydrogen plants fit 2017 state government roadmap

The South Australian Labor government in 2017 gave $1 million to help Neoen complete feasibility of a 50MW hydrogen superhub powered by the wind-solar-battery at Crystal Brook Energy Park, near Port Pirie. The vision was for an electrolyser to produce up to 20,000kg of hydrogen a day, opening renewable hydrogen exports to Asia. The Crystal Brook proposal would be much bigger than a 15MW hydrogen electrolyser power plant, announced in 2018 for near Port Lincoln, seen as a globally-significant demonstrator. This was closely followed by a $11.4 million 1.25MW Siemens electrolyser to produce hydrogen using grid electricity and potentially onsite solar by the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) at Tonsely innovation district in Adelaide. These projects fitted the government’s Hydrogen Roadmap, launched in 2017 under its $150 million Renewable Technology Fund. Developed with industry – including Siemens and Advisian (part of the WorleyParsons Group) – the roadmap outlined to developers how the state’s nation-leading renewable wind and solar capacity could attract international investment in producing hydrogen. Hydrogen can be obtained from surplus renewable sources such as wind or solar through electrolysis that splits clean water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen can then be used in a fuel cell to power vehicles or exported around the world.


1414 Degrees using its global-leading heat storage at SA Water wastewater plant

The first commercial pilot of a world-leading molten silicon energy storage system, developed by South Australian innovator 1414 Degrees, started using technology installed at SA Water’s Glenelg wastewater treatment plant in 2019. The 1414 Degrees’ biogas thermal energy storage system (GAS-TESS) stores energy from biogases created by wastewater treatment to increase the plant’s energy self sufficiency. The project is funded by 1414 Degrees and the South Australian government’s renewable technology fund, while SA Water will allow the 1414 system to integrate energy storage and heat with its industrial operations.1414 Degrees, now listed on the Australian securities exchange, expects the use of GAS-TESS in 2019 and give immediate returns for SA Water while building a foundation to apply the technology at similar sites worldwide. 1414 Degrees technology delivers heat as well as electric power. Energy is sourced from renewables or the grid, and is stored as latent heat at constant temperature. The energy is then dispatched on demand. This breakthrough technology is set to disrupt energy storage globally because it provides the world’s most common form of energy: heat. The GAS-TESS idea started in 2009 when Adelaide businessmen Harold Tomblin, John Moss and Robert Shepherd engaged a former CSIRO scientist to develop a device to harness silocon for energy storage. With research funding, mechanical engineer Matthew Johnon developed the technology, and Kevin Moriarty from the mining industry helped commercialise it.

AGL builds $295 million Barker Inlet gas-power station and virtual solar station for 1000 homes

AGL, South Australia's biggest power producer and retailer, is building the $295 million Barker Inlet gas-fired power station to replace its 50-year-old Torrens A unit at Torrens Island. AGL said it was building the new generator after assurances that the state government's gas-fired plant would not be a competitor. AGL is also building what was touted in 2017 as the world’s largest virtual residential power plant of its kind, made up of connected batteries, feeding from solar panels on 1,000 Adelaide suburban homes, to form a five-megawatt virtual solar power station. Launched at the notable 2017 press conference when Labor state premier Jay Weatherill confronted federal Coalition energy minister Josh Frydenberg over criticism of South Australia's renewable energy push, the project has been slowed after AGL suspended the rollout to reconsider the technology and restarted in March 2018 when customers were offered either an LG Chem Resu battery paired with a SolarEdge inverter for $2990 or a Tesla Powerwall 2 for $5490.


SA Water's Project Zero aims to wipe out its $55 million electricity costs with renewable energy

SA Water has embarked on Project Zero to cut its 2016-17 electricity costs from $55 million to nothing by 2020 through with renewables energy generation/storage and trying innovative technologies. This will include 500,000 solar panels, with a capacity of 154MW teamed with 34MW of energy storage, at 93 SA Water sites across South Australia. SA Water’s small trial solar + storage system at its Crystal Brook depot, featuring 100 kilowatts of solar panels and a 50 kilowatt-hour battery system, reduced reliance on the mains grid by 30%. Other pilot projects being funded by innovative technology partners include: floating solar photo-voltaic arrays on reservoirs, 1414 Degrees silicon thermal storage to complement biogas generation and flywheel mechanical battery storage systems. SA Water has already cut electricity costs by more than $3 million a year since 2013 with measures such as biogas power (a by-product of the sewage treatment) and hydroelectric systems (harnessing moving water within the network to generate electricity). Through renewable energy, its Bolivar and Glenelg wastewater treatment plants are now 92% and 80% energy self-sufficient. SA Water continues to buy electricity on the wholesale spot market, allowing major water pumping during periods of low electricity prices.

$476,000 for study into straw-fuelled biomass power plant on Yorke Peninsula at Ardrossan

The South Australian government supported plans in 2018 to develop Australia’s first straw-fuelled power plant near Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. Yorke Biomass Energy, received a $476,000 Renewable Technology Fund grant to look at the plant’s feasibility. The straw-fuelled biomass generator would produce 15MW of power, as well as a new income stream for farmers and additional competition for the power grid. The demonstration project will be near the Ardrossan West substation. Once the Ardrossan project is complete, Yorke Biomass Energy plans to replicate the project across South Australia in remote and off-grid locations, particularly with crop farming and mining. The company has identified 10 locations to produce up to 150MW additional generation in South Australia. Yorke Biomass Energy believes straw power can reduce electricity costs and create economic benefits to rural communities plus help resolve issues between mining and agriculture. It offered side benefits such as soil health, crop rotation and managing weeds plus cutting greenhouse gases and boosting energy security. Biomass fuel is already being used  by Thomas Foods in Murray Bridge, Tarac Technologies in Nuriootpa, AR Fuels in Largs Bay and Wingfield; and SA Water treatment plants.

Australia-first advanced compressed air energy storage project for old mine near Strathalbyn

South Australia will host Australia’s first advanced compressed air renewable energy storage project: a $30 million plant, at the mothballed Angas Zinc Mine, in Strathalbyn, 45 kilometres southeast of Adelaide., announced in early 2019. The plant is being built and run by Canadian company Hydrostor Australia, with the South Australian government’s Renewable Technology Fund contributing $3 million with $6 million from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). It will produce five megawatts of output and feature 10 megawatts of storage. The technology operates similarly to pumped hydro but uses compressed air instead. It used electricity from the grid to run a compressor, which produces heated compressed air. The air is pumped into a cavern deep underground – displacing water into an above-ground reservoir – and kept at constant pressure. When power is needed, hydrostatic pressure forces water back into the cavern and pushes the compressed air to the surface, where it is reheated and expanded through a turbine to generate energy. The project could provide 24/7 power. An office for Hydrostor in Adelaide will accompany the project.

South Australian CCT Energy Storage firm produces the world-first TED thermal battery

South Australia’s CCT Energy Storage launched the world’s first working thermal battery in 2019. The TED (Thermal Energy Device), battery accepts any form of electrical input to convert and store energy as latent heat. This makes it versatile, affordable and long-lasting. TED can be scaled to power remote communities, businesses, micro grids, rail signalling or telecommunication, as a substitute for diesel generation. CCT Energy Storage originated in 2011 in small factory in the southern Adelaide suburb of Lonsdae when a tenacious group of scientists and engineers began researching, developing and designing a large-scale thermal battery to revolutionise the market for global renewable energy. The cutting-edge technology and its potential grew exponentially which led to Climate Change Technologies being formed as a private South Australian company in 2011 and a working scale prototype in 2012 from more than $6 million in research and development. In 2019, the company's Lonsdale plant was set to make 10 units for commercial customers that year and production expected to rise to 200 by 2020. CCT Energy Storage’s thermal battery's unique phase-change material that stores energy at more than 12 times the energy density of a lead acid battery. The stored energy can be extracted from the thermal battery via a heat engine, to provide an electricity supply when needed. The thermal battery is suitable for renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Climate Change Technologies has found a Swedish partner MIBA Solutions to make and distribute TED in Europe.

AGL plan for Adelaide Hills Kanmantoo mine pit to become hydro energy storage plant

AGL Energy, owner of the biggest gas-generation fleet in South Australia, plans to build a major 250MW/2000MWh pumped hydro energy storage project in the former copper mine site at Kanmantoo, 55km south-east of Adelaide. The company in 2019 agreed to pay $31 million for the rights to develop the pumped hydro project at Adelaide Hills mine from Hillgrove Resources, using the existing open mine pit, with a new upper pond to be built nearby. Hillgrove said it identified the chance to use the mine put for pumped hydro in 2017, noting the shift to renewables and the rising cost of gas. The company also had to abandon underground exploration beneath the existing mine pit because of the pumped hydro electrical storage (PHES) system that would be need for the AGL project. To have the hydro energy project ready and operating by 2014, AGL began a multiple stage process, including eliminating any pollution concerns, getting a grid connection and financial investment approval. AGL would buy land required for the project from Hillgrove shortly after a final investment decision. AGL hoped to transform the former mining site into one of the lowest cost electricity storage projects in Australia, when synchronous generation and bulk storage was critically needed. AGL was already building the 210MW fast-start gas peaking plant at Barkers Inlet to reflect the changing energy system. It was expected that if South Australia’s new interconnected link to NSW from Robertstown to Wagga Wagga was built, both AGL’s Torrens Island A and the more modern Torrens Island B gas units would be retired.


businesses learning that energy efficiency equals cutting costs

Yalumba, Coopers set pace for businesses in South Australia using cleaner/cheaper energy

Established South Australian companies Yalumba wines and Coopers brewery led the way with energy-efficiency cost cutting. Yalumba installed a 1.4 MW array of solar panels in Angaston, the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system at an Australian winery. AGL Energy worked with Yalumba to install the panels across Yalumba’s three Angaston sites to produce 2000 MWh of renewable energy and save more than 1100 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and 20% in energy costs.This solar investment adds to Yalumba's moves in irrigation efficiency, soil moisture and planting drought and salinity-tolerant vines. It became the world’s first wine company to receive the Climate Protection Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. Since 2003, Coopers brewery at Regency Park has used gas turbine-based cogeneration to supply its steam and electricity. Fired with natural gas with thermal efficiency of 80%, the $6.2 million plant produces power that reduces greenhouse gases by 90%. The plant is operated by AGL Energy and is rated at 4.4MW. Generation above the brewery's electrical load of 1.2 MW is fed back into the grid.


Tonsley district, airport, produce market, shop centres host big arrays of rooftop solar panels

Major industrial-scale solar panel phalanxes are being added to Adelaide rooftops, in addition to the 210,000 South Australian households with rooftop solar PV, with total capacity of 720MW. About 20,000 solar photovoltaic panels producing 6MW for eight-hectare roofs of the Tonsley Industrial District main assembly building and TAFE SA building, with a capacity of up to 6MW. Australia’s largest car park rooftop solar feed is from Adelaide Airport’s short-term carpark, adding 1.1MW to the other panels on terminal roofs to supply 10% of the airport’s energy needs. The South Australian Produce Market at Pooraka will team 1600 solar panels and a large lithium ion battery to save stallholders over half a million dollars a year off their power bills. Elizabeth City, Castle Plaza and Kurralta Park shopping centres became part of Australia's largest shopping centre solar installation worth $28 million by Vicinity Centres. About 7300 South Australian businesses had solar PV systems in 2018, with combined capacity of 102MW – roughly equivalent to the capacity of the Tesla battery at Jamestown.

Consortium of five large businesses buying renewable energy from SIMEC ZEN from 2019

The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME) in 2018 awarded an eight-year electricity supply contract to renewable energy retailer SIMEC ZEN Energy, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, to bring down electricity costs 20-50% for a consortium of five South Australian businesses: Viterra, Central irrigation Trust, Hillgrove Resources, Foodland Supermarkets and AdChem (Australia). The contract begin in 2019, with SIMEC ZEN to supply renewables from Cultana solar power station, pumped hydro and battery storage in the upper Spencer Gulf. The company also won the South Australian government electricity supply contract in 2017. The SACOME bulk buying consortium was a response to a doubling in electricity costs experienced after the Northern power station closed. the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s gave the green light in to the bulk energy purchase May 2017. The deal enabling SIMEC ZEN to back a definite demand with its anticipated new renewable power generation and thus offer lower pricing. SIMEC ZEN Energy chairman Sanjeev Gupta  said the deal offered what South Australia’s energy marked needed: more competition in wholesale generation and retailing. This landmark deal, a first of its kind, is expected to inspire more across Australia.

Precision Components finds new life after car making with heliostats for global solar market

Based in the Adelaide western suburb of Beverly, Precision Components, previously a tier one supplier to Ford, Toyota and GM Holden, has adapted to life after the end of Australian car making by becoming a founder shareholder of Heliostat South Australia that’s having a global impact in renewable energy industry. Heliostat SA is part of the Fusion Renewables Group with its investment arm Fusion Capital and the University of South Australia, May Brothers and Enersalt. HeliostatSA was born out of Precision’s plan to move from car-component hot stamping and metal pressing to advanced manufacturing and engineering of high-value-add specialised products in emerging markets with like-minded companies and universities. Helped by $1 million from the Australian government under its automotive diversification programme, the company’s vision was realised by taking on the manufacture of a heliostat designed by the CSIRO. Heliostats are computer-controlled mirrors used especially with solar thermal tower technology. This set up HeliostatSA to supply mirrors to SolarReserve’s 150MW Aurora solar thermal plant ready in 2020. But it also has been involved in ventures overseas, including India, Cyprus and Japan.

BHP seeks guarantees after 2016 hit at Olympic Dam: South Australia's biggest electricity user

BHP’s Olympic Dam mine, South Australia's single largest consumer of electricity, was exposed as vulnerable by the October 2016 storm and heatwaves that disrupted production and caused $100 million in lost production. That power cut lasted two weeks. BHP was within 10 minutes of molten metal freezing in its smelter. This potentially would have required the plant plant to be replaced, curbing metal exports for between 12 and 18 months and costing about $3 billion. The miner lost power more briefly again in November 2016. In 2015, BHP had asked for a more reliable grid connection than the 275kV line at end of the grid via Port Augusta. In 2009, BHP Billiton defined its typical annual electricity consumption as 870,000 MWh (or 125 MW) and its needs were likely grow by 20% with mine expansion. BHP is investing about $US2.1 billion to lift Olympic Dam name-plate copper production from the rarely achieved 200,000 tonnes a year to 330,000 by 2023. The other big and expanding Gawler Craton mine operator is Oz Minerals. It is moving to double its South Australian mine fleet and copper production.Concerns over power availability and security for the these far north ventures may force the need for their own power plant.


but South Australia's nuclear power option ruled out indefinitely

Renewables start down push on power prices in South Australia but gas keeping them high

An 2018 independent study by Victoria Energy Policy Centre into the South Australian electricity market confirmed its households have on average the highest electricity prices in the world but found, from 2013-18 data, that wind and solar energy drive down prices and by far more than the subsidies to pay for them. The study found gas-fired power was pushing prices higher. Renewable generators sell electricity on the wholesale market very cheaply because the ongoing cost of producing electricity from wind and solar is effectively zero. These cheap offers from renewable generators on the wholesale market displace more expensive offers from gas generators. In 2017-18, renewables cut wholesale prices by an average 30%, or about $37 per megawatt hour, mainly due to wind generation. Cost of the subsidies for renewables was calculated at $11 per megawatt hour. Average electricity prices in South Australia fell below those in coal-rich Victoria and New South Wales in the first four months of 2017-18. The Australian Energy Market Commission predicted in 2017 that household power prices would fall about 7.3% or $280 over the next two years due to wind and solar projects. The federal Coalition government blamed South Australia’s high electricity prices in 2017 on reliance on renewable energy. But in 2018 it had turned to taking a “big stick” to coal/gas dominant companies – Origin, AGL and Energy Australia –  to bring down prices.

South Australia goes from an importer to exporter of electricity in 2017-18 renewables era

South Australia became a net electricity exporter for first time in 2018. A prime factor in this was Hazelwood brown coal generator being closed in 2015, cutting 25% of supply in Victoria – South Australia’s only link to the national power grid. But also in the leadup to South Australia’s switch to exporter were 12 new South Australia wind and solar farms totalling 1050MW capacity added to the grid, including trebling of the large-scale solar to 500MW. The rapid uptake of rooftop solar by homes and businesses kept a lid on grid demand, while consumption rose. This is a big change in South Australia from 1999-2000 when it had only gas and local coal and used to import 30% of electricity demand. In 2018, nearly half of South Australia’s power came from renewables. Gas-fired generation increased in South Australia after the Northern coal-fired power station closed but is still below a decade ago. The new Liberal state government in 2018 said it would continue the transition to renewable energy. The 2018 report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) warned that increased renewables in the system heightened the need for rapid-response technologies to smooth out their intermittent nature. The Tesla 100MW battery had helped stabilise the national grid.

South Australia's lead in renewables hinges on the energy policy of federal government

South Australia’s lead in renewable energy sources – with 1800MW of wind farms and more than 830MW of rooftop solar in 2018 – gives it extra interest in federal energy policy. South Australia would have gained more than any other state from an emissions intensity scheme (EIS) for the national electricity market but this was ruled out in 2017 by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. A Finkel Review recommended a Clean Energy Target that Turnbull again was forced to abandon. Next came the federal National Energy Guarantee (NEG) that sunk with Turnbull’s prime ministership in 2018. The NEG set a renewables energy target of about 23.5% cent of Australia's electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2020. This was feared to lack the ambition to encourage new renewables investment. The 26% emissions reduction target for electricity was at the lower end of Australia’s Paris Agreement commitment of a 26-28% cut to 2005 level emissions by 2030, The federal Labor party committed in 2018 to deliver 50% more renewable energy supply by 2030 and raise the emissions reduction target to 45%. 

Possibilities for state nuclear power put on hold after the Scarce royal commission

Nuclear power production in South Australia was ruled out for a least a decade by a royal commission set up by the state government in 2015. The commission into South Australia’s nuclear cycle, headed by former state governor Kevin Scarce, found that the only likely immediate part that could used in South Australia was to store and dispose of used nuclear fuel. To have nuclear power plants, long-term revenue certainty would be required to attract interest from investors and financiers. Depending on the extent and speed of climate mitigation action taken by Australia between now and 2050, for nuclear power plants to be commercially viable in South Australia, the cost of the nuclear plants would need to decrease by at least 25% to be competitive with electricity generation from other sources, the cost of capital would need to decrease to 6% or less assuming strong climate action or a carbon price of at least $180/tCO2-e (AUD 2015) would be required (that is, electricity prices would need to increase significantly above that estimated under the Strong Climate Action [High Storage] Scenario). Without these conditions, a government subsidy, guarantee and/or policy action was likely to be needed for nuclear power to be developed in South Australia.

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