Earthworks are underway for the battery storage system at Meridian Energy’s Ruakākā Energy Park near Marsden Point in Northland.
The company’s 100 MW/200 MWh BESS at Ruakākā begins as it prepares resource consent applications for a solar farm of up to 130 MW at the site.
Meridian chief executive Neal Barclay says the grid-scale battery system will further speed up Aotearoa New Zealand’s transition to a productive low-carbon economy.
The battery will also work well with the planned solar farm.
“The shared infrastructure provided by the BESS will significantly improve the economics of the future solar farm,” Barclay says.
Looking over the site of the Meridian Energy’s planned Ruakākā Energy Park battery and solar project in Marsden Point, Northland. Credit: Meridian Energy
A Meridian spokesperson says construction on the support infrastructure for the BES will begin in July, with the batteries being installed and commissioned between March and September next year.
The spokesperson says the solar farm resource consents will be lodged with Whangārei District Council around the middle of this year. Meridian will have a better idea of that project’s time frames once the consenting process is complete.
At the official sod-turning ceremony, Barclay noted the Ruakākā battery system will be the first to be connected to Transpower's grid network, adding significant versatility for Meridian and the whole electricity system.
“This grid-scale battery at Ruakākā is the first significant milestone for our ambitions in Northland.”
Meridian says the battery and solar installations will improve and enhance the region’s energy resilience and security of supply. The spokesperson says connecting the batteries to the national grid will allow Meridian to shift load between time periods and participate in the North Island reserve electricity market.
“As intermittent renewable generation increases in Aotearoa, the Battery Energy Storage System will help manage supply fluctuations through a low carbon footprint, reducing this country’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
“The battery has a 200 MWh capacity and will make a significant contribution to the reliability of the overall electricity grid, allowing more intermittent wind and solar renewable electricity generation to be efficiently accommodated within the system.”
Barclay noted that Meridian is also preparing the consent applications for a new wind farm at Mount Munro in the Wairarapa and the 130 MW Ruakākā solar farm.
“We’re getting on with it.”
The spokesperson says Meridian has also identified several other possible battery and solar sites across New Zealand. There is potential to use batteries in conjunction with wind farms, “but at the moment, we’re focused on using them in conjunction with solar”.
Industry exploring options
Meridian’s move into batteries and solar comes as other industry participants look to the technologies to meet the challenge of a more renewable system and meet rising electricity demand.
Transpower is considering a grid-scale battery to help it stabilise the flow of electricity through Auckland.
Hamilton-based electricity distributor WEL Networks is also developing a 35/MW utility-scale battery system with renewable project specialists Infratec. WEL says the battery system will support the charging of electric vehicles, maximise the benefits of solar power on its network and provide back up during grid emergencies. The project experienced some supply-chain delays, but the battery is likely to be commissioned in July this year.
Rather than building a single site, solarZero is using its ‘virtual power station’ of residential batteries in Transpower’s demand response programme. When it began offering the load into the market in 2021, solarZero said batteries in 3,500 homes nationwide could provide up to 10 MW of power to offset demand on the grid for short periods. Last year the firm told the Electricity Authority that it would soon have 10,000 solar and battery systems available.