Clean energy potential in Toowoomba and the Surat Basin

September 1, 2022

Surat Basin clean energy

The Toowoomba and Surat Basin region in southern Queensland is an energy powerhouse home to a diverse mix of resources including coal, gas, and renewables. As the uptake of renewable energy grows, this region has huge potential to be one of Australia’s clean energy capitals.

Fast facts about the Toowoomba and Surat Basin (TSB) region:

– TSB is home to half of the existing clean energy capacity in Queensland, including the biggest wind farm, solar farm, and battery in the state.

– Projects under development amount to five times the existing clean energy capacity in the region.

– TSB is close to major load centres. This contributes to high marginal loss factors (MLFs) for local generators.

– Sunny Queensland in general is a great area for solar. But what many might not be aware of is that the wind profile is very interesting as well.


The future is renewable

We are on the cusp of the biggest clean energy investment opportunity in a lifetime. The Toowoomba and Surat Basin region is extremely well placed to take advantage of this boom.

Data below from the Energy Synapse Platform shows power projects under development across the National Electricity Market (NEM) as well as specifically in the TSB region as at July 2022. As can be seen from the chart, fossil fuel projects represent a very small portion of all projects under development. When it comes to power generation, the future is very much renewable.

Energy Synapse energy projects development surat basin


Why wind in the Surat Basin?

We probably don’t need to explain why companies would be interested in building solar farms in Queensland. However, some might be surprised to learn that this is a very interesting region for wind as well. For example, Coopers Gap Wind Farm in the Surat Basin was one of the best performing wind farms in the NEM in 2021.

At a high level, the wholesale value of a power generation asset is a result of two variables:

1. The amount of electricity the asset can produce; and

2. The value of that electricity in the energy market.

Coopers Gap Wind Farm did not produce an extraordinary amount of electricity. In fact, this wind farm had quite an average capacity factor throughout 2021. The reason it did better than most wind farms is almost entirely due to the pricing side of the equation.

Firstly, as can be seen from the chart below, Queensland has had the highest wholesale electricity prices out of any NEM region over the past year. This gives a significant advantage to any power stations that are located in Queensland. Furthermore, we anticipate that Queensland will experience above average volatility (compared to other states) over the next decade (particularly if AEMO’s Step Change scenario eventuates).

Energy Synapse wholesale electricity prices

However, it is not just the average price that matters. Wholesale electricity prices change every five minutes in the NEM. Prices tend to be lowest in the middle of the day when solar PV (both utility-scale and rooftop) is generating large amounts of electricity. In contrast, electricity prices tend to be higher in the morning and evening when more gas and hydro is needed.

The chart below from the Energy Synapse Platform shows the average intraday capacity factor during 2021 for two wind farms: Coopers Gap and Yendon in Victoria. Yendon has quite a flat generation profile, which is typical for many wind farms in Victoria. In contrast, the wind resource at Coopers Gap dips in the middle of the day. This makes Coopers Gap very complementary to solar and well placed to take advantage of higher prices that tends to occur on the solar shoulder periods. This type of generation profile tends to be much more valuable in the wholesale market than a profile that it is relatively flat throughout the day.

Energy Synapse coopers gap wind farm

Opportunities for battery storage

As the transition to clean energy continues, battery storage will become increasingly valuable in the market. This is because batteries are dispatchable and fast responding. A large portfolio of batteries will needed across the NEM, including the TSB region. Furthermore, there will be opportunities to repurpose existing grid infrastructure and install utility-scale batteries at many of the fossil fuel generators within the Surat Basin when they retire.

The energy mix is undoubtedly changing. This is creating a massive opportunity for the Toowoomba and Surat Basin region to secure its next stage of economic growth.

Author: Marija Petkovic, Founder & Managing Director of Energy Synapse
Follow Marija on LinkedIn | Twitter

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SA batteries paid to charge as solar sends electricity prices negative

December 2, 2021

SA batteries hornsdale power reserve lake bonney

Batteries in South Australia have been paid to charge throughout September and October 2021 due to a record number of negative price intervals. Wholesale electricity prices were negative almost 40% of the time.

The chart below from the Energy Synapse Platform shows the average intraday generation and price profile for South Australia in September. The lowest prices occur in the middle of the day, due to an abundance of solar energy (particularly rooftop solar). Solar creates a “duck curve” not only in the demand profile, but also in the price profile. This sends a signal for energy storage to soak up excess solar, and discharge the power at more valuable times (such as the evening).

Energy Synapse Platform South Australia generation wholesale electricity prices
Batteries normally incur a cost when they purchase wholesale energy to charge. However, as can be seen in the Energy Synapse Platform, “charging costs” were a positive revenue line item for the Hornsdale Power Reserve and Lake Bonney battery in South Australia. The 150 MW Hornsdale Power Reserve earned more than $300k from charging over the two months, while the 25 MW Lake Bonney battery earned over $100k.

Energy Synapse Platform SA batteries revenue FCAS energy arbitrage

Negative energy prices were certainly a welcome boost for batteries. However, it is important to note that frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) remain the dominant revenue stream.

Solar farms without batteries face an economic limit

As more solar is added to the grid, daytime prices get lower and lower. This places an economic limit on how much solar (without storage) can be deployed in a market.

The Tailem Bend solar farm in South Australia has a modern PPA structure, which requires it to turn down to avoid negative prices. This is known as “economic curtailment”. Tailem Bend was also subject to multiple physical grid constraints, which limited its output. We can see the significant impact this had on the operation of the asset during September in the Energy Synapse Platform. The net result was that the average capacity factor was drastically cut to around 20% in the middle of the day when the natural output of the asset would have been the highest.

Energy Synapse Platform Tailem Bend solar farm

Apart from building more big batteries, there is also an opportunity to encourage more demand side resources to “flex up”. This can come from a wide variety of technologies such as hot water systems, residential batteries, and even new industries like green hydrogen.

Author: Marija Petkovic, Founder & Managing Director of Energy Synapse
Follow Marija on LinkedIn | Twitter

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