NT to get ‘grid forming’ big battery as Darwin site hits construction milestone


Australia’s top end is set to have its first big battery operating in 2023, the 34.7 MW / 34.7 MWh Darwin-Katherine Battery Energy Storage System (DK BESS) being built at the Channel Island Power Station in Darwin.

While the big battery’s capacity looks modest, it’s worth noting the Northern Territory has a population of just 247,000.

Being delivered by the Swiss-headquartered Hitachi Energy, which was awarded the Territory government’s tender in Dec. 2021, the battery will deploy the company’s Virtual Synchronous Machine or grid forming technology. The technology gives batteries the capacity to help stabilise the grid by providing inertia and frequency control services which have until recently only been provided by gas or coal fired generators. 

Hitachi has already deployed this technology in Australia with Hitachi ABB Power Grids in use at South Australia’s 30 MW/ / 8 MWh Dalrymple battery.

Hitachi Energy Country Managing Director Bernard Norton described this deployment as “a bold step towards operating the entire Darwin-Katherine network without gas powered generators.”

Norton is gesturing toward the end vision for the Darwin-Katherine battery which, being built at the site of a 279 MW gas facility, the Channel Island Power Station, is a step towards eventually replacing the fossil fuel generation.

Alongside providing stability services, the DK BESS is expected to unlock more capacity for residential and industrial solar and save 58,000 tonnes per annum of carbon emissions.

The battery is anticipated to generate cost savings of $9.8 million and pay for itself in just under five years. It will feed into the Darwin-Katherine Interconnected System which services 150,000 Territorians.

According to Gerhard Laubscher, CEO of Territory Generation – the Territory-owned company behind the Channel Island Power Station –  Hitachi Energy already has a team mobilised to the site to carry out specialist battery equipment and cabling installation.

Hitachi is working with local contractor ESPEC to deliver the battery, while West Australian company Pacific Energy Group will supply and install the 11.5 kV switchroom via its subsidiary MVLV Power Solutions.

The DK BESS has been described as the “cornerstone investment” of Territory Generation’s Fleet Transition, with the project also a major part of the Darwin-Katherine Electricity System Plan.

“Construction of the Darwin-Katherine BESS is a huge step forward in our plan for 50% renewables by 2030,” NT Minister for Renewables and Energy, Selena Uibo, said.

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