What makes a super battery super?
For the proposed new Waratah Super Battery, described by the energy regulator as fulfilling a “critical need,” it’s a matter of both size and capability.
The Waratah Super Battery (WSB) project will construct a battery energy storage system (BESS) at the former Munmorah coal-fired power station at Colongra on the central coast of New South Wales.
It’s expected to be the largest battery energy storage system in the world – in terms of both storage capacity and power.
The battery was approved by the New South Wales Government in February and is on the brink of construction.
So how super is super?
The battery is approved to be 850MW with a guaranteed continuous active power capacity of at least 700MW and an energy storage capacity of 1680 MWh.
To put that into perspective, that’s roughly 125,000 times what a 1.35kWh Tesla Powerwall might store to power your home.
It will cover 16.65 hectares with 2600 containerised lithium-ion type batteries up to 3.3m high along with all the control systems, inverters, transformers and other equipment that goes with them, a 330kV switchyard and a 650m long transmission line connecting in to the Munmorah substation.
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The New South Wales Government has described the monster battery as a “giant shock absorber”.
“The Waratah Super Battery, with a capacity of 700MW, will be the largest standby network battery in the Southern Hemisphere, acting as a giant shock absorber so that transmission capacity currently kept in reserve can be freed up to transfer energy to consumers,” NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean said late last year.
A scoping report for the project said the Waratah Battery was not about energy generation, or even extra storage capacity, but transmission capacity and stability as the energy landscape changed.
“For many decades, energy generation in NSW has been powered by a fleet of large coal-fired power stations and has provided reliable and abundant energy distributed across NSW,” the report said.
“Four of the States’ five existing coal-fired power stations are expected to close within the next 15 years, starting with the Liddell Power Station in 2022-2023. These power stations currently provide around three-quarters of NSW’s electricity supply and two-thirds of the capacity required to meet peak energy demand.”
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Added to this was the February 2022 announcement Australia’s largest coal-fired power plant, Eraring Power Station, would close in August 2025, about seven years earlier than originally planned.
“In response to this, the NSW Government has developed a comprehensive plan to ensure NSW continues to have reliable and affordable electricity following the closure of the Eraring Power Station,” the report said.
This plan includes the Waratah Super Battery, part of the larger Sydney Ring Project to increase transfer capacity into the critical Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong area by about 5GW.
How does it work?
The battery is a system integrity protection scheme (SIPS).
It is designed to act as a buffer in the event of sudden power surges that might happen in a bush fire or lightning strike. When the power fails, the battery automatically charges or discharges to prevent a blackout.
The system will be operated by Transgrid, which has said the project will help ensure the energy supply to Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong while renewable energy zones are completed.
“As part of the project we are carrying out major upgrades to existing transmission lines and substations to enable additional energy to be delivered to consumers,” Transgrid executive general manager of network Marie Jordon said in February.
“We will also develop and operate a $30 million System Integrity Protection Scheme to control the standby network battery’s activation when additional energy is required, ensuring it can respond almost instantly to any disruptions in the power system.
“Transgrid is on track to ensure the super battery, SIPS control and network upgrades are completed by mid-2025 in advance of Eraring’s earliest closure date.”
The Assessment Report for the project notes the battery will form a bridge between the traditional predictable power source of fossil fuels to “inherently variable” renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
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