AGL to build 210MW ‘fast-start’ fossil-fuel power plant

Located near Adelaide, the $222m facility will be able to ramp up its output quickly to respond to changes in renewable generation supply in South Australia.

Australia’s AGL Energy will invest A$295 million ($222 million; €197 million) to develop a 210MW power station near Adelaide, South Australia, replacing old thermal turbines in the company’s Torrens Island facility. 

The new plant, to be known as the Barker Inlet Power Station, will comprise 12 reciprocating engines capable of generating about 18MW of output each. These units will operate at high efficiency with a lower heat rate than other forms of fast-start plant currently available, said Doug Jackson, executive general manager of AGL. 

They will be able to run at full capacity within five minutes of start, providing a rapid response to changes in renewable generation supply. AGL also added that the technology is more fuel-efficient and less carbon-intensive than the pre-existing plant. However, it did not specify the fuel source for the reciprocating engines, which can generally be fed with natural gas, propane, diesel or even gasoline in small units. 

Construction of the project will commence in Q3 of this year, with full operation scheduled in the first quarter of 2019. AGL’s chief financial officer Brett Redman said that the investment is consistent with the company’s growth agenda, under which it anticipates continuing to use its balance sheet to invest in development opportunities. 

The project will replace two of the four Torrens A turbines, which AGL plans to mothball from 1 July 2019. The four Torrens B turbines will continue to operate as normal.

“Torrens A is now 50 years old. Our decision in June 2016 to defer its previously planned mothballing reflected the importance of maintaining security of supply in South Australia following the withdrawal at short notice of other power stations,” said Andy Vesey, AGL’s chief executive officer and managing director. 

The utility said the investment follows the commitment in recent months, alongside the partners in the A$3 billion Powering Australian Renewables Fund, to develop the 200MW Silverton Wind Farm in New South Wales. 

Last week, it received development permit from the state government for Queensland’s 460MW Coopers Gap Wind Farm, which will be the next greenfield development offered to the PARF. The fund is a partnership between AGL, QIC and Future Fund to develop approximately 1GW of large-scale renewable energy projects in Australia.