Japanese joint venture to pitch in on $1bn plant

TOKYO — A roughly $1 billion solar energy project in Australia will employ one of the biggest power storage facilities in the world, with Japanese and Western companies contributing funds.

As part of this, a 250-megawatt plant in the state of South Australia will use a 100MW lithium-ion battery storage system. The storage capacity will be on par with a wind farm battery system from Tesla in Australia, now the largest of its kind on the planet. Power generated at the forthcoming plant will be sold to local utilities.

Tokyo-based JERA, a 50-50 energy joint venture of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and Chubu Electric Power, has signed on. It will partner with Fluence — a U.S. energy storage technology company under Germany’s Siemens — and Australian renewable-energy outfit Lyon Group. The trio will construct three solar power plants that will together be able to generate 550MW when all are online by the end of 2019. JERA is expected to contribute more than 10 billion yen ($91.4 million) to the project.

Battery storage offers JERA a good business opportunity, since solar power in Australia fetches higher prices at night than during the day.

Through the investment, JERA will acquire know-how in renewable energy, such as the best volume and timing for discharging electricity to minimize degradation of battery cells and maximize earnings. Once the cost of producing storage batteries falls, similar operations will likely expand to Japan and elsewhere.

The Japanese government aims to significantly raise the share of renewables in the power generation market. Depending on the weather, such projects sometimes produce surplus electricity that is never used. There are also cases where fluctuations in generation at renewable plants cause fossil-fuel-fired plants to change operating rates to compensate. Adopting large-capacity battery storage and other output-stabilizing technologies will go a long way toward realizing renewable-energy goals.



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