Conergy in landmark Aussie solar storage deal

The German downstream specialist has received financing from Australia’s renewables agency to build a $33m solar-plus-storage system.

German developer Conergy has agreed to build a large-scale solar project coupled with an energy storage system in a remote town in northern Australia, the first such system to be developed in Asia Pacific, according to the company.

The project has a A$42.5 million ($32.33 million; €28.61 million) price tag and received A$17.4 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The solar-plus-storage system will generate 10.8MW of energy and will have a 1.4MW/5.3MWh battery. The project is expected to generate enough energy to power 3,000 homes in Lakeland in the country's northeast. It should be operating in April 2017.

Mining company BHP Billiton has expressed interst as a potential offtaker for the project to power its remote operations.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said this is a “landmark” project for Australia as it tries to deploy more large-scale solar installations across the country.

“The global energy transition is happening faster than many anticipated and Australia is well placed to be a key player,” he said. “Figuring out how solar PV and battery storage technologies best work together at a large scale will be crucial for helping more renewables enter our grids.”

Frischknecth said solar-plus-storage systems are particularly useful for “fringe-of-grid” locations that are removed from Australia's main electrical network. He said having a system that can generate and store its own electricity can reduce outages caused by overworked grids and long distance power lines.

Investors are increasingly viewing energy storage as a sub-sector with great potential. As costs for the technology continue to drop, it is being seen as a critical piece to mitigate the intermittency of solar generation. Ratings agency Standard & Poor's noted in a report earlier this year that 150GW of battery storage is needed to double renewable energy capacity by 2030.