Strengthening the ACT’s electricity grid by adding batteries is a step closer with the government going out to tender to find small battery suppliers for government sites.
In a Goldilocks and the Three Bears-esque approach, the ACT Government says the grid will be backed up by big, medium and small batteries.
Progress on those three “streams” is happening at different rates, with the medium-sized batteries (Stream 3) the furthest away.
Once completed, the entire battery ecosystem should be able to provide power for a third of the Territory.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has acknowledged an electrified Canberra would put pressure on the existing grid.
“There are billions of dollars being invested in this. The bottom line is there will need to be, and there will be, more investment in our energy network.
“More batteries, more storage opportunities.”
But the government has also defended the city’s grid, saying it will be ready to manage the increased load thanks to the work underway, including by increasing big community and household batteries, as well as the continued uptake of rooftop solar on households.
The Chief Minister has described the Big Battery project as one that will “future-proof” the Territory’s grid.
Last Friday (12 August), the government went to tender for suppliers to provide behind-the-meter solutions at 14 ACT Government-owned and operated sites.
Two separate tenders went out. One for a supplier to provide 10 smaller batteries (10 to 40 kWh) and one for a supplier to provide four slightly larger batteries (85 to 439 kWh) and a solar PV system at one site.
The government has touted this stream as not only helping to reduce power used in the buildings it owns but also helping to reduce the strain on the distribution network.
The batteries will be placed behind the meter, which means they are not integrated into the electricity network. In-front of the meter batteries are interconnected to distribution or transmission networks or in connection with a generation asset.
The government say “significant interest” is expected from industry.
“It is anticipated that the Territory will enter into contracts with a supplier for each tender by the end of the calendar year, with construction to start after these contracts are finalised,” a spokesperson for the government said.
“Installation of the four larger batteries and one solar PV system is expected to be completed by mid-2023. Installation of the smaller batteries at 10 government sites is expected to be completed by March 2023.”
The batteries will be installed in sites in Fyshwick, Gungahlin, Belconnen, Chifley, Greenway, Kambah and Stromlo.
Construction on the big battery (which may actually be big batteries) is expected to begin late next year.
The government is expected to go out to tender later this month or in early September to selected companies that applied for an expression of interest process.
The large battery will be managed under a revenue-sharing arrangement where the government pays a fixed annual sum in exchange for a fixed percentage share of total project revenue from the provider.
The provider is, in turn, responsible for the facility’s control, management, operation and maintenance.
It’s anticipated the large battery will need a site as large as two hectares.
A final phase, which is still in the process of policy development, will deliver neighbourhood-scale batteries. These will likely sit in a park, for example, and will be used to soak up power in areas with lots of rooftop solar.
That stage is the furthest away because the kinds of batteries the Territory and Commonwealth governments want don’t exist yet.
An almost million-dollar boost to the project was funded in the recent 2022-23 ACT Budget. Those funds built on a previous commitment to $100 million over five years allocated in the 2020-21 Budget.
Construction is already underway on large-scale batteries in the region following a reverse auction process. One is being built by Neoen in Beard and one by Global Power Generation in Queanbeyan.