Australian LNG provider Woodside plots 500MW solar, 400MWh energy storage project

An existing solar array in Australia, developed by Neoen. Image: Neoen Solar

Australian LNG player Woodside Energy has tabled plans to build a utility-scale solar-storage project with a generation capacity of up to 500MW in Western Australia.

The proposal, submitted to Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Authority, states Woodside’s intent to build the Woodside Solar Facility in the Maitland Strategic Industrial Area near Karratha in Pilbara, Western Australia.

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The initial phase of the project would combine 100MWac of solar PV generation with a battery energy storage facility with a capacity of 400MWh. Woodside is, however, intending to gain permission to extend the solar capacity to up to 500MWac and the storage capacity to a maximum of 200MWh for each 50MWac of PV generation, inferring a battery of up to 2GWh.

Furthermore, Woodside said the facility is expected to operate for up to 70 years, far beyond the standard life expectancy of solar projects.

Woodside Energy would construct and operate the project, which would be connected to the North West Interconnected System (NWIS), which is operated by state-owned power company Horizon Power. Horizon would construct accompanying infrastructure for the project, including a 20km-long transmission line to connect the solar facility with the NWIS.

If permitted, construction is anticipated to start in 2022 with energisation of the project’s first phase slated for a year after that.

The supporting document for the planning application, which can be found here, extols the benefits of the facility in reducing carbon emissions in Western Australia, especially in relation to Woodside’s LNG facilities in the region.

In November 2018, Woodside said it was “maturing a concept” to integrate industrial-scale solar with gas-fired generation at its Burrup Hub LNG facility, located near the solar-storage project now proposed.

Despite issues affecting investor confidence in utility-scale solar in Australia in recent years – many of which were explored within a feature first published in PV Tech Power last year – tens of gigawatts of solar projects have been earmarked for planning in the country, many of which lie within so-called Renewable Energy Zones in states such as New South Wales.

Applications to participate in the zones have been oversubscribed many times over, prompting the Government of New South Wales to open registrations of interest for another zone late last year.

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