Following months of connection delays, renewables developer Windlab has announced its landmark energy hub in northern Queensland has been connected to the grid. The Kennedy Energy Hub is a ground-breaking project because it is the first on a major grid to combine wind, solar and storage.
Construction of the Kennedy hub – combining 43 MW of wind, 15 MW of solar and a 2MW/4MWh Tesla battery – was completed in December. The project was sitting idle since then due to delays in completing its generator performance standards and subsequent registration as a generator. The Australian Energy Market Operators’ complex, extended connection rules have delayed a number of renewable energy projects across the market.
In case of the Kennedy Energy Hub, the developer had to add both a statcom for voltage regulation and a synchronous condenser for system strength, as the first project to do so in the Ergon Energy network. While the installation of additional components added to project costs, Windlab also had problems with its EPC contractor and inclement weather, as post-cyclone flooding prevented access to the site by network commissioning crews.
“Nearly all renewable generators in Australia have found grid connection challenging in the past 18 months,” Windlab CEO Roger Price said. “Being the first project to implement both a statcom and synchronous condenser in Ergon’s network has meant Kennedy is no exception. However, the persistence and technical capability of the [Windlab] team has paid off.”
Over the coming months, the developer hopes to complete the registration and commissioning work. First export of electricity from the Kennedy park is expected in mid-August after a compulsory “hold point zero” period that will allow the network operator to conduct background power quality testing.
The project will then commence commissioning and testing, and progressively exporting electricity to the network through a series of further “hold points”, initially under a 5 MW export limit until AEMO registers the project as a generator in September.
The Kennedy Energy Park is jointly developed and owned by Windlab and Japan-based Eurus Energy. Located near Hughenden in North Queensland, the project has signed a 10-year PPA with Queensland state-owned generator CS Energy. Windlab revealed plans to grow the Kennedy hub much bigger to 1200 MW, but this was later deprioritized due to uncertainty around connection solutions.