Australia opens AU$100m competitive Funding Round for grid-scale battery storage

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is launching a competitive funding round for large-scale battery storage projects worth up to AU$100 million (US$72.16 million).

The Large Scale Battery Storage Funding Round was released just before the Christmas break by the national agency, which administers financial support and encourages knowledge-sharing for the sector on behalf of Australia’s government.

Projects that utilise sophisticated inverter technology and have a capacity of 70MW or more will be eligible. The battery energy storage system (BESS) projects must also operate in either the NEM, which includes most of eastern and central Australia, or the Western Australian Wholesale Electricity Market.

Developers of new-build projects and those looking to retrofit improved inverter capabilities to their existing BESS plants are both eligible to apply. The maximum award amount is restricted at AU$35 million per project, and ARENA said it expects to fund at least three.

ARENA seeks to promote the use of modern inverters to assist batteries in providing synchronous inertia to help stabilise energy networks, a service that was formerly provided by centralised thermal production units.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller stated, “Grid scale batteries and other types of energy storage technology will be critical to sustain our future electrical system powered by renewables.”

“The role of sophisticated inverters in grid scale batteries in providing system stability, permitting a more efficient transition, and accelerating the acceptance of renewable production will be demonstrated in this financing cycle.”

Advanced inverters might be used to assist power system stability, according to Miller, but there is still a clear need for public sector investment to ensure the technology works at scale.

The funding round’s goals build on projects like South Australia’s Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) demonstration, which was completed in 2018 and is Australia’s first ‘virtual synchronous generator,’ using a 30MW / 8MWh BESS to integrate growing shares of renewables and support system stability at the state’s transmission line network.

Also in South Australia, Neoen-Hornsdale Tesla’s Power Reserve energy storage facility is getting an advanced inverter update, while ARENA alluded to a research by power network provider Powerlink Queensland that highlighted advanced inverters’ outstanding potential.

Expressions of interest for the funding round will open in February and must be submitted by the end of March before a full application process opens later in 2022.

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