UPC/AC Renewables invest in 550 MW of pumped hydro and solar in South Australia

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UPC\AC Renewables Australia have entered into a conditional share purchase agreement for the acquisition of 51% stake in the 250 MW Baroota Pumped Hydro and the 300 MW Bridle Track Solar Farm projects from Rise Renewables. The Filipino-Australian joint venture intends to accelerate remaining development, fund construction and retain long-term ownership of both projects.

The Baroota Pumped Hydro will consist of two 125 MW units with eight hours storage. The project will involve the construction of upper storage, penstock, pipeline and power station, and utilize the existing SA Water Baroota Reservoir as lower storage. Located in the Southern Flinders in the state’s mid-north, the Baroota pumped hydro project was one of 12 projects shortlisted by the Australian federal government in its Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced up to $40 million to fast track development of South Australia’s first PHES plant. The $700 million Baroota project is among the three plants in the Upper Spencer Gulf competing for the funding, alongside Simec Energy’s $380 Middleback Ranges near Whyalla and Altura’s $350 million Goat Hill site at Cultana, developed together with Delta Electricity.

The 300 MW Bridle Track Solar Farm and the Baroota pumped hydro project share a connection point to the 275kV Bungama-Davenport transmission line. The solar farm is likely to be built in stages.

“One of the key aspects of the NEM, as we transition to a low carbon emissions system, is the need to build and operate longer-term storage projects like Baroota. Dispatchable power such as Baroota coupled with renewables like wind and solar will smooth the transition to a low emissions system,” UPC\AC Renewables Australia CEO Anton Rohner said.

As for next steps, the company plans to accelerate Baroota’s financial close and construction start. “We are aiming to have the 250 MW of capacity operational by the summer of 2023, the first expected summer without the Liddell power station,” Rohner said.

AC Energy acquired a 50% stake in UPC last May. Under the joint venture, gigawatts of renewable energy projects are being developed in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, including the giant Robbins Island wind project in Tasmania with a capacity of up to 1 GW, a 720 MW solar project near Uralla in the New England region of NSW, and also a 160 MW solar project in Victoria. 

The Baroota PHES and the neighboring solar farm are said to fit well with the joint venture’s other projects across the National Electricity Market as it seeks to achieve “a balanced portfolio of reliable renewable generation.”

“Pumped hydro energy storage is the missing link in Australia’s electricity network, offering the potential for long-hours energy storage and on-demand generation. Bridle Track Solar Project will be co-located adjacent to the pumped hydro project offering significant locational and shared infrastructure advantages,” said Brer Adams, Director of Rise Renewables. “The projects will provide network services, helping to balance variable generation and supporting further development of South Australia’s electricity market.”