Battery storage is the force behind renewable energy
Australia ranks among the world leaders in renewable energy output. From rooftops to large scale plants, solar power is a major contributor to the grid. Solar and wind combined have the capacity for over 6,000 megawatts nationwide and growing. Hydro power is so plentiful, some companies are even harvesting ocean wave and tidal energy. There’s so much commitment to renewable energy that South Australia, Tasmania, and the ACT could be using 100 per cent renewables in the next few years. What makes all that clean, renewable energy such a force is the vast capacity for battery storage. Without it, solar energy would be no good at night or on cloudy days, and some places would have electricity only on windy days. Simply put, batteries are what make investment in renewables worthwhile.
Tesla big battery
It’s been a year and a half since Tesla installed its first big battery at Hornsdale, SA. The $95 million project will have paid for itself in the next few years via the sale of stored electricity and ancillary services. What’s more, the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery — actually hundreds of Tesla Powerpacks — has revolutionised an industry that will attract $900 billion of investment worldwide by 2040. The battery — owned and operated by Neoen Australia — stores 129MW hours and sends electricity into the grid at 100MW. It saved an estimated $57 million last year compared to prior energy costs.
The Hornsdale Power Reserve entered the scene at a time when South Australia was experiencing frequent blackouts and has stabilised the grid, keeping power flowing last August when lightning strikes caused outages in the rest of the country. “Reviewing the data from Hornsdale Power Reserve’s first year of operation has given us real insights into the capabilities of this new technology, including how these fast response systems can help improve stability, reduce the likelihood of load-shedding events, and contribute to the reduction in wholesale prices,” Aurecon managing director Paul Gleeson told Electrek. “The data is telling us that these fast response systems can help us optimise the way Australian’s energy system works.”
The biggest testimonial to the big battery’s effectiveness is that since the fourth quarter of 2018, three more large-scale storage systems have gone online: Tesla’s 25MW/50MWh facility at Gannawarra, the 30MW/30MWh Ballarat Energy Storage System operated by EnergyAustralia, and a 30MW/8MWh Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project at Dalrymple North. “Solar plus storage is a ‘category killer,’” John Cole, CEO of Edify Energy, which oversaw the construction at Gannawarra, told Renew Economy. “The entire sector is aware of the potential for storage projects to not only provide invaluable services to the market and the grid, but also to enable the roll out of more and more clean and cheap renewable energy.”
Battery of the Nation
In an effort to contribute more to the National Energy Market, Tasmania is launching the Battery of the Nation project, which will use pumped hydro to store energy generated by solar, wind, and existing hydro systems. Whereas current hydro systems send water out to sea after it’s captured to generate electricity, pumped hydro uses two capturing sites to create a closed loop. The project is expected to more than double Tasmania’s energy output and position it as a key supplier to the rest of the country. Battery of the Nation could deliver as much as 2500MW of storage capacity.
From an initial list of 2,000 potential pumped hydro sites that was whittled down to 14, Hydro Tasmania and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have selected three places — at Lake Cethana and Lake Rowallan in the North West and near Tribute Power Station on the West Coast — for further study. “What we have here are three very strong pumped hydro development options in the state,” Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said. “This puts Hydro Tasmania in a great position to select one strong development opportunity that can be ready for more interconnection. We will be working closely with key stakeholders and local communities during this next period of investigations.”
A second electricity connector across the Bass Strait, called “Marinus Link,” will accompany the pumped hydro project to deliver power to the mainland. The federal government has pledged $56 million to fast-track Marinus Link once a pumped hydro site is selected. Construction of the facilities is expected to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment over 10 to 15 years.
On a smaller scale, Australian companies are rolling out creative battery designs to store renewable energy on the household and industrial level. Redflow’s 10kWh zinc-bromine ZCell and ZBM2 offer secure remote management, 100 per cent daily depth of discharge, work in extreme temperatures, and are easily recycled. In flow batteries, the cathode and anode are liquid rather than solid, meaning storing more energy is simply a matter of adding bigger tanks. The Ecoult Deka UltraBattery works for on- or off-grid installations, and its 20kW/17kWh capacity can be scaled up for large domestic or industrial needs. Its status as a hybrid lead-acid battery and carbon ultracapacitor ensures nearly every part is recyclable.
Of particular interest in a country where more than 2 million homes have rooftop solar panels, CCT Energy Storage has invented a thermal energy device. “It’s a device that takes any form of electrical input on the front end and converts that to thermal energy,” CEO Serge Bondarenko told Forbes. “We use silicon as our phase-change material, melt it, and store the heat from that.” It can store several times more energy than a lithium-ion or lead-acid battery and can create alternating or direct current. Uniquely, it can charge and discharge simultaneously. Bondarenko estimates his thermal energy devices can last 20 years or longer. “It really is a world game-changer,” he said. Now that’s something to get energized about.