Syncline Energy has revealed plans to build the Melton Renewable Energy Hub, a big battery project, near Melbourne. It will be located next to the Sydenham terminal station and will connect to the state’s main 500 kV transmission backbone.
The big battery project has been fast-tracked by the Victorian government under its planning scheme amendment, which is a pathway for significant state projects. The company hopes to reach financial close by the second quarter of 2022, with production to begin by the second half of 2023 to support the network over that summer.
“We see this as a longterm piece of energy infrastructure that will play a range of different roles as the decade rolls through to a range of different customers,” Syncline Energy CEO, Phil Galloway told pv magazine Australia.
The Australian company will own and operate the project, which will also include a 12.5 MWp solar farm to supply the battery’s ancillary cooling loads and ensure low cost, “net-zero” operations.
The project site, which spans more than 90 hectares, was secured after the company spent a year driving between Victoria’s various substations and speaking to councils, gathering together a list of 20 potential locations.
“This was by far No. 1,” said Galloway.
One of the reasons for that is the site lays at the junction between three of Victoria’s emerging Renewable Energy Zones, allowing the Melton Renewable Energy Hub to connect to each of those separate zones via the state’s 500 kV transmission “backbone.”
The chemistry of the proposed big battery is yet to be finalized, though it will be of the lithium variety.
Galloway said Syncline Energy is also looking to use “second life” batteries from cars and buses in its energy storage array. When its battery cells reach the end of their lives, it plans to build systems to recover the lithium, nickel and cobalt on site. Key to that will be using a narrow range of chemistries to optimize the recovery process, said Galloway. This, he says, is part of a “product stewardship approach” the company plans to take.
“We need to be responsible for that whole cycle,” he said, adding that he would like to see the storage industry become more mature about the OHS (occupational health and safety) around its operations.
The project will integrate grid-forming technologies, though Galloway said he is still waiting for clarity around the national electricity rules for grid-forming services, which are still being developed. This has been earmarked as a top priority for network operators, with regulations expected to become clearer in the coming year.
Likening it to the model of data centers, Galloway said “storage as service” will form the core of the project’s business model. That is, he is looking at leasing battery space with the project.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has registered the Melton Renewable Energy Hub as a market participant, with the project already completing the preliminary connection enquiry stages. Its connection application process is now underway.
Syncline Energy is behind Victoria’s 110 MW Bannerton Solar Farm, as well as two commercial geothermal projects at Warrnambool. It has also developed hybrid microgrids in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.