16/09/2021

South Australia is a world-leader in green energy, with around 71 per cent of its energy produced from renewable sources. The state is now using its expertise to help other nations kick green energy goals.

Nick Smith is the Executive Director of Growth and Low Carbon Division in the SA government Department for Energy and Mining. “We have had a focus on green energy for a long time, with our last coal-fired power plant closing in 2016.”

Famous as the home of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, also known as the Tesla big battery, South Australia is exporting its green energy prowess internationally. For instance, in March the state signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Rotterdam for a hydrogen export supply chain feasibility study.

Highly reliable weather in the form of wind and sunny days gives South Australia a natural competitive advantage in green energy. The state aims to produce 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources over time. “We are also looking into how to embed our renewable resources and energy into minerals and mining and help to decarbonise the mining sector,” says Smith.

“South Australia has around 69 per cent of Australia's economic demonstrated copper resources and 44 per cent of Australia's economic demonstrated magnetite, which lends itself to green steel and iron production using hydrogen. We also have 66 per cent of Australia’s graphite reserves, a mineral that’s required to produce battery anodes. So, we have real opportunities to embed our clean energy expertise in the mineral sector. We can also help other countries achieve their de-carbonisation aims,” he adds.

There are still plenty of challenges to overcome when it comes to green energy, for instance widespread use of batteries in the home and commercial sector to store green energy. Virtual power plants are likely to be part of the solution. These systems aggregate battery power across multiple units to great a cloud-based power generator.

The SA government is funding trials using this technology, including rolling out a Tesla virtual power plant across the roofs of South Australian housing trust properties. This has dual benefits. Aside from helping the state develop its understanding of this technology, it also helps reduce residents’ power bills. It’s an approach that also helps provide equitable access to new technologies across the socio-economic spectrum.

Creating a value chain for batteries at the end of their useful lives is another challenge. It’s an opportunity being carefully considered by businesses, such as commercial and domestic solar and battery business Suntrix. The business designs, supplies and maintains, monitors and services solar and battery systems.

“The way we store energy will continue to change, and we're always looking at how we can do things more efficiently, partnering with other industry leaders, government departments and academics,” says Suntrix managing director Jenny Paradiso.

“There are opportunities for batteries to be used to solve more problems than just blackouts. That’s where we're going to focus our efforts over the next 5 years,” she says, adding it’s likely domestic batteries for storing green power will be ubiquitous in coming years.

Catherine Way is DP Energy’s Australian country manager. The business helps get green energy projects up and running, for instance, finding investors and managing approvals and stakeholders, such as landowners. Its first Australian project is the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park, a hybrid energy project that combines wind and solar PV technology, due for completion mid-2022. “We did the front-end work to create a shovel-ready project,” she explains.

The $500 million Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park is a 317 megawatt project, with 107 megawatts coming from solar PV and 210 megawatts coming from wind.

With so many countries and companies embracing a net zero emissions future, it will be fascinating to see how South Australia parlays its green energy skills to take a global leadership role in the sector.

Sourced from the The Australian Financial Review South Australia Focus Report.