Marking a renewable energy milestone

22 May 2023

In February 2023, Essential Energy officially launched its first network battery trial in Sovereign Hills, near Port Macquarie on NSW’s Mid-North Coast.

Developed in partnership with AGL, the battery will help manage the growing energy demand in the local community and enable customers to export more solar to our network.

John Cleland, Essential Energy’s CEO said our first grid-scale battery trial will provide learnings that will lead to further deployment of the technology, supporting the energy transition of regional, rural, and remote NSW.

“We expect this trial to support our capability growth to own and operate electricity storage across the network, solving local voltage variation, capacity limitations and broaden export capability.”

Battery storage is an increasingly viable option for managing a higher volume of renewables and network constraints, and the trial will assist in identifying the best operating models for maximising the customer, network, and market benefits from distribution level battery storage.

In selecting a location for the trial, consideration was given across multiple locations, with a desire to take the learnings for future deployment of batteries across other NSW locations.

The fast-growth area of Sovereign Hills was identified as an ideal location for several reasons, including the anticipated network capacity with estimated future population growth of up to 10% by 2031, availability of a council-owned road reserve, minimal impact to visual amenity, and reduced impacts to established developments. The location is also at the end of an 11kv powerline.

The battery solution chosen by our project partner AGL for the trial is the Evo Power Neo Series solution. Each Neo Battery Energy Storage Solution (BESS) comprises a 500kw/1000kwh pack, with two of the Neo BESS installed for combined energy capacity of 1MW/2MWh solution. The battery is connected to the distribution network via a dedicated 1500kva pad mount substation onto the 11kv network.

To optimise the battery system, new cloud-based control systems have been developed to manage automation. The control systems enable network performance to be managed dynamically, ensuring the charging and discharging of the battery supports changing energy demands.

Two control mechanisms have also been implemented to manage network constraints - voltage control at the battery, and thermal control via closed loop dynamic control. To manage voltage levels, the battery inverters have fixed upper and lower operational thresholds for active and reactive power settings. This ensures the battery operates within these thresholds for market services, which can also be as the network constraints vary.

The control systems have been integrated within Essential Energy’s 24/7 Control Room, so operators have visibility and control of the system, ensuring safety and operation is managed to meet customers’ expectations.

Essential Energy is investing in new technologies and building smarter networks across our network to provide more reliable, cost-effective energy to support energy reliability and the transition to a net zero energy market. Our customers have told us that they expect us to support their renewable energy ambitions and we are transforming our business to help deliver on that.

John Cleland, Leslie Williams and Ryan Warburton

(L to R) Essential Energy CEO, John Cleland, Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams, and General Manager, Commercial and Industrial Customers at AGL Energy, Ryan Warburton
Photos courtesy of AGL Energy, photographer Alexander Legaree