Sun Metals, MSF Sugar join Townsville virtual power plant as foundation customers

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Two industrial majors, Australian zinc metals producer Sun Metals and agribusiness company MSF Sugar, have joined the cloud-based, load control state-wide network, known as the Townsville virtual power plant.

Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham welcomed the companies’ vote of confidence in the plant, managed by Yurika, an arm of publicly-owned Energy Queensland.

“The virtual power plant has already proved its worth during last week’s heatwave,” Minister Lynham said, adding that when demand spiked for air-conditioners last week, the plant drew 44 MW from a supplier in the south-east corner to help meet record peak demand.

The plant’s mission is to take pressure of the network and help reduce volatility in wholesale prices, making the power bills more affordable, and electricity system more reliable.

Provided by Melbourne-based company GreenSync and launched last September, the Townsville-based virtual power plant, which is in reality a high-tech control room, is currently staffed with four people, with the prospect of creating a total of 10 new positions as operations expand.

“The virtual power plant represents the future of energy and we are pleased to be a foundation customer,” said Yun Choi, CEO of Sun Metals Zinc Refinery. “We can see the benefits for our business and the community.”

As one of the biggest consumers of energy in the state, Sun Metals Zinc Refinery decided last year to build its own PV array, which was welcomed as Australia’s largest industrial solar project. Expected to cover one third of the company energy needs, the 125 MW solar project, 15km south of Townsville, is a landmark case with the Korean-owned company as the first major energy user to source some of its electricity needs from renewables, and in this case develop its own project, rather than opt for a corporate PPA.

“Through the virtual power plant, we are working with Yurika to optimise our capacity for electricity generation and to better manage demand across our farms,“ said Hywel Cook, MSF Sugar’s general manager business development.

In addition to participating in the demand response side of the market through the Townsville plant, the agribusiness company is also developing its own renewable energy resources in northern Queensland – a bagasse-fueled 24 MW biorefinery.