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Holden helps SA power on

Power up: GE aero-derivative turbines are being installed at Holden’s Elizabeth car factory to help South Australia overcome power shortages.

Back-up generators for South Australia being installed in Holden’s backyard

20 Sep 2017

HOLDEN, the company that powered the South Australian economy for more than 160 years, is helping its home state to overcome summer power shortages by turning over part of its vast backyard at the Elizabeth car factory to the SA government for back-up electricity generators.

Although the car manufacturing plant closes next month, big trucks have been arriving at the plant over the past week, bringing huge General Electric power generators for installation on a vacant site on the 123 hectare property on Adelaide’s northern fringe.

Owned by the SA government and to be operated by SA Power Networks, the generators are scheduled to be up and running by this summer to help overcome potential shortages of electricity in heatwaves or other emergencies.

The installation is one of two in SA, with the other going in at a seaside site next to the state’s desalination plant at Lonsdale. Combined, the nine generators – costing a reported $360 million – can produce up to 276 megawatts of electricity, although that output can fall a notch in hot weather.

The sites are temporary, with the SA government working on plans for a permanent location where all nine generators can be consolidated within two years.

Initially, the hybrid generators will run on diesel, but the plan is to switch them to natural gas once in their permanent home. Called aero-derivative turbines, the units can run on up to 50 different fuels, and are said to be the most efficient available.

The generators can be quickly fired up to help balance the grid in the event of a power shortfall as was experienced in SA last summer when a storm brought down power lines, but they will only be run in emergencies.

The Holden plant, which shuts on October 20, is a convenient site for the generators, as it has large power lines running into the property. Instead of providing power to operate the numerous machines and thousands of lights in the factory, the lines will take electricity out to the grid.

Holden’s parent company General Motors still owns the site, but plans to sell it off once it is cleared of machinery that is now subject to an online auction.

The hybrid generators are one of a number of initiatives by the SA government to counter power shortages. Another is a large battery storage unit to be installed by Tesla next to a new solar energy “farm”, also by this summer.

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