Queensland renewables auction flooded with projects

11 October 2017 - 12:00 am UTC

Queensland’s 400MW renewables auction has been swamped with 115 project proposals representing more than 9GW of generating capacity.

A further 6GW worth of associated energy storage projects also lodged expressions of interest by the 25 September deadline the state’s energy minister, Mark Bailey, told Queensland’s Parliament on Wednesday (11 October).

The reverse auction calls for 400MW of large-scale renewable energy generation plus an additional 100MW of energy storage capacity. The tender mandates that every solar farm bid must have access to some form of storage to ensure the plants can still supply power during peak periods.

The 115 proposed projects were from 79 companies said Bailey, who is Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply as well as Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports.

The government is now drawing up a shortlist of bids which will be asked to submit bids via a request for proposal process in November, which will be the basis of the reverse auction.

The EOIs included 2,200MW from wind farm proposals, around 6,400MW from solar projects, including solar photovoltaic and solar thermal plants and around 500MW of other renewable energy technologies, including “biomass”.

It is the first renewables auction in Australia to mandate that solar farms come with some form of storage to ensure they are able to provide power in peak energy use periods.

Solar generators need usable storage capacity providing a minimum of 20% of the average daily energy yield of the generator.

The storage does not have to be directly co-located with the plant, however, in line with the recommendations of the Finkel review by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, The provider could locate the storage anywhere in the Queensland electricity network.

Bailey highlighted the role storage is playing in the auction. He said batteries were “prominent” in the EOIs, included a mix of stand-alone energy storage and those integrated with generators. There were also several other types of storage that have yet to be used in Australia he added.

“The integration of storage with renewables is the future and particularly important to enable renewable energy to be dispatched in the market when it is required,” Bailey said.

“In addition to supporting the deployment of renewable energy, storage technologies can provide a range of services that will help to enhance the security and reliability of Queensland’s electricity network.”

Storage projects under the additional 100MW large-scale storage requirement will need to supply a minimum of 5MW per hour of useable storage capacity and a peak discharge/charge capability of 5MW for a minimum of one hour. These projects could include various technologies including batteries and pumped hydro.

As previously reported, the tender also sets minimum sizes for generators.  

Solar and wind farms need to be a minimum of 30MWac. Energy from waste projects or existing coal or gas fired plants that are converted to use biofuels would need to be a minimum of 10MWac.

The state is considering several options for feed-in tariffs, including either a fixed strike price; a “sculpted strike price”; or a “cap and floor” structure, as reported.

Two options are being considered for storage projects centred on regular availability payments for supplying a set amount of capacity over a set period. State power companies and the national energy market operator could take full control of the storage plants under one option, another has the project owner maintain control.

The 400MW plus 100MW storage auction will add to the approximately 1.8GW of projects estimated to be currently either starting construction or finalising commercial arrangements in the state.