Walcha tests market interest in biggest renewable and storage project in NEM

Walcha Energy is to test market interest in what it describes as the biggest renewable energy and storage project in Australia’s main grid – a proposal to build up to 4.5 gigawatt of wind and solar and up to 10 gigawatt hours of battery and pumped hydro storage in northern NSW.

The Walcha Energy Project is a joint venture between Mirus Energy and Energy Estate, and its proposed components include pumped hydro energy storage facility at Dungowan Dam, a battery storage hub of up to 500MW and up to five hours storage near Uralla, and up to 3.8GW of wind and 700MW of large scale solar.

It is the biggest integrated renewables and storage project proposed for the National Electricity Market and is pitched at the NSW grid which will see much of its coal fired generation capacity retiring in the coming decade – Liddell by 2023, Vales Point by around 2030, and Eraring by 2032.

Global wind turbine manufacturer and project developer Vestas has already acquired 95 per cent of the first 700MW phase of the project – the Winterbourne Wind Farm, located to the north east of Walcha on the New England plateau, around 50kms south of Armidale.

Other identified components of the renewable energy hub include the 700MW Ruby Hills wind project, the 400MW Topdale wind project and the 300MW Salisbury solar farm, near Uralla.

Walcha has secured funding from the NSW government under its emerging energy program to conduct pre-investment studies for the Dungowan and Uralla storage projects, and has now launched what it has dubs the “Energy Storage Open Season” – essentially an invitation to the market to express interest in various components of the project such as storage, firming and ancillary services, as well as ownership interests.

Walcha director Simon Currie says the “open season” is used in many energy markets around the world to test market interest and properly size new projects.

“The rapid growth of new wind and solar generation across the NEM has increased the level of competition in the market,” he said in a statement.

“The next step in the evolution of the Australian energy markets is to provide dispatchable energy solutions to new and existing players in the market and directly to large energy users.

“The purpose of Walcha Energy’s Open Season is to give market participants visibility as to capacity which will become available from our storage projects and allow us to optimise the design and the development cycle to based on feedback from the market’’.

Currie says the feedback received from the market will be used by Walcha Energy to optimise and finalise the design of the projects, assess the current market requirement to tailor products to suit demand and develop an appropriate participant framework.

Its work to date has identified up to 500MW of battery storage capacity, with between one to five hours of storage, near the Uralla renewable energy hub, and potentially three separate pumped hydro projects at the existing Dungowan Dam, each of around 500MW with six to eight hours storage.

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