Victoria: Second big battery commissioned ahead of schedule, Gannawarra and Wemen Solar Farm now operating

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The second of the two grid-scale batteries that will provide support to the Victorian grid by the start of this summer – the 25 MW / 50 MWh battery collocated with the Gannawarra Solar Farm – has been completed ahead of schedule.

“The Gannawarra Battery Storage has been commissioned and registered with AEMO,” Mark Hogan, Managing Director of Wirsol, told pv magazine Australia.

The owners of the Gannawarra battery, Edify Energy and Wirsol, say that they have overcome some unique regulatory and technical challenges to deliver the first battery storage system that has been retrofitted to an existing solar farm.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of the official commissioning of the 30 MW / 30 MWh Ballarat Battery Energy Storage System – Victoria’s first big battery, supplied by Fluence and owned by AusNet.

Both battery storage facilities are operated by EnergyAustralia under log-term off-take agreements.

Meanwhile, the 60 MW Gannawarra Solar Farm in north-west Victoria has started operating at full capacity, having received approval from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) for successfully passing all commissioning tests.

The solar farm was connected to the grid in April, when the commissioning process was initiated.

“We are delighted to reach two crucial milestones at Gannawarra Solar Farm,” Hogan says, adding that the facility holds great significance and further demonstrates the great opportunity for integrating large-scale battery storage with solar projects on a global scale, specifically within Australia.

“The overall project and how it has evolved is unique to the industry which in turn sets a benchmark for future projects, which enables the ability to optimise the delivery of energy at peak times supporting demand throughout the daily cycle.”

In addition, Wirsol’s largest solar project to date – the 110 MW Wemen Solar Farm has been connected to the grid and is generating power during commissioning.

According to Wirsol, the Wemen Solar Farm, has achieved first generation in an impressive 11 months – creating over 600 jobs in various capacities during this time.

RCR Tomlinson, the EPC contractor on the project, achieved the first-generation milestone on schedule and will continue commissioning with the goal of achieving completion by year end.

The construction of the project was financially underpinned by debt finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which provided $207 million for Wirsol’s the Wemen Solar Farm and the 90 MW Clermont Solar Farm.

The offtaker for the Wemen Solar Farm is retailer Simec Zen Energy, a unit of the Sanjeev Gupta group’s commodity conglomerate GFG Alliance, which is also developing its own solar assets, including the 280 MW Cultana Solar Farm  South Australian industrial town Whyalla, as part of its 1 GW dispatchable renewable energy program.   

By adding 170 MW of large scale solar to the grid, Wirsol is looking to contribute to Victoria’s ambitious renewable energy goals – the legislated renewable energy targets of 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 pledged by the Victorian Labor government. – as well as fulfill its own mission of deploying more than 1 GW of solar energy by the year ending 2020 in Australia.

The two projects will power the equivalent of approximately 52,100 Victorian homes over the course of the year with clean, sustainable electricity.