New South Wales approves 500-megawatt battery at closed coal plant

27 08 2022 | 05:40Giles Parkinson

A huge 500MW/1000MWh battery at the site of the shuttered Wallerawang coal fired power station near Lithgow has won planning approval from NSW state government authorities.

The Wallerawang battery – to be developed by Greenspot – is one of the biggest of a number of big batteries proposed for NSW, the country’s biggest and most coal dependent grid, and which is plotting for a dramatic and rapid transition to renewables and storage.

Planning approval was announced by the state planning authority on Thursday, noting it was located on the site of a former 1240MW coal generator that closed in 2014, on land that contained a recently harvested pine plantation, was shielded from nearby homes, and is close to existing energy infrastructure.

The Department of Planning also noted that the project would require a capital investment of $404 million, create 100 construction jobs, and provide $2 million in community enhancement projects via the local council.

Greenspot is likely to develop the battery in at least two stages, firstly with a 300MW facility – most likely with two hour storage, depending on market conditions – and hopes it can become part of a new industrial facility at the site.

It is located just outside the Central West Orana Renewable Energy Zone, where the first auctions for grid access rights for wind, solar and storage projects will be held later this year, but it is located on the main transmission line linking the zone with the major load centres in Sydney.

“The Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone is expected to unlock 3 gigawatts of wind and solar generation by the mid-2020s,” Greenspot CEO Brett Hawkins said in a later statement issued on Friday.

““We have secured an approval for a major energy storage project here at Wallerawang which can play a role in making that a reality.  We intend to team up with leading energy market players to move through the grid connection, financing and construction phases and ultimately to operation in the National Electricity Market.” 

Greenspot has said that it hopes a final investment decision can be made later this year, and if that is the case then the first stage of the Wallerawang battery operational could be operational by the summer of 2023/24, in time for the closure of the Liddell coal generator in the Hunter Valley.

There are several other large scale storage projects also proposed in the area, including the similar sized Great Western Battery proposed by Neoen, which has already built the two biggest batteries in Australia, the Victoria Big Battery near Geelong, and the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia.

The Neoen project is still in the planning approval process, and would seek to plug into the same sub-station. It is not clear if both projects would go ahead at the same time.

Meanwhile, both EnergyAustralia (at Lake Lyell), and Atco (at Central West near Bathurst) also have proposals for large pumped hydro projects.