Hybrid and storage could be a 'blueprint' for emerging markets

AUSTRALIA: A hybrid wind, solar and storage plant could be a blueprint for clean, reliable power in emerging markets, according to the CEO of developer WindLab.

Solar-wind-storage projects could be used in emerging markets
Solar-wind-storage projects could be used in emerging markets

The 40MW Kennedy Energy Park, being built in North Queensland, is combining wind, solar and energy storage to demonstrate a reliable source of electricity using renewable energy sources.

In the project, a 4MWh battery will be used to support the output of each resource.

"It's a meaningful amount enough of storage capacity to be able to provide sufficient time shifting, even though on a day-to-day basis 100% renewable energy reliance might not be possible," said Windlab CEO Roger Price.

When operational in 2018 the park will serve as a proof of concept for a much bigger hybrid wind, solar and storage plant.

The Big Kennedy project, which will be in the region of 1GW in size will show very big, reliable renewable energy generation projects are possible.

It will cost about A$1 billion ($740 million) to build, using debt and equity financing.

"Lenders and investors are going to want to see the proof-of-concept ahead of handing over financing, so we expect to see financial close of Big Kennedy in around 2020," said Price.

But emerging markets are also ripe for this type of hybrid project, Price believed.

"In a developed market, you are competing with cheaper forms of conventional power generation, such as gas and also hydro. Energy storage costs still have some way to come down for a hybrid plant like Kennedy Energy Park to be competitive," he said.

In emerging markets options for building new generation capacity tend to comprise of diesel, which is dirty and have higher operational costs, or building new gas plants, which are expensive investments.

"Hybrid storage and renewable energy plants could establish comparatively quickly," said Price.

Windlab, which has a local office in South Africa, has been investigating potential locations in the Africa.

"You get similar profiles for renewable resources, like wind, in east Africa, such as Tanzania, as you do in North Queensland. In eastern Africa there is a fundamental demand for electricity because there is not an alternative in the form of a centralised grid and power supply."

The company has already identified a couple of locations that are highly suitable for a hybrid renewable energy and storage plan. "We're also looking at island grids and we've had interest from off-grid mining projects in what we are doing," he said.

Big Kennedy will be built separately to Kennedy Energy Park, rather than be an extension of it.

"A major plant such as this is going to require a large transmission upgrade and you have to be building in excess of 500MW to make that sort of investment worthwhile," Price explained.

The project has been designed to match the local energy demand profile. Both the wind and solar resources are good and also highly complementary, because solar production occurs during the day, while wind often blows at night.

"The diurnal wind pattern means wind blows from the mid-afternoon, into the early evening and through to the early morning hours," Price said.

For the first phase Windlab set up a joint venture with Eurus Holdings, a Japanese independent power producer that has experience of developing and operating both wind and solar plants and is also helping to provide financing for the project.

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) selection should be finalised by the end of the year, with Kennedy Energy Park expected to reach financial close in the first quarter of 2017.

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