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Shoalhaven pumped hydro could double in size

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $2 million in funding for Origin Energy to assess the feasibility of expanding the Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Scheme.

If the $6.8 million full feasibility study is successful, this proposal would nearly double the capacity from the existing 240MW to 475MW.

Located 150 kilometres south of Sydney in the NSW Southern Highlands, the Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Storage Scheme currently consists of two pumped storage hydropower stations at Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela.

Earlier this year, Origin undertook pre-feasibility work on three potential design options for expanding the scheme.

ARENA’s funding will go towards a full feasibility study based on the preferred option, which involves bypassing the Kangaroo Valley Power Station and instead pumping water from Lake Yarrunga to Fitzroy Falls Reservoir.

The option includes a 235 MW underground power station, taking advantage of the longer water head available, resulting in a higher output and efficiency.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the proposed expansion would help provide large-scale storage and would inform other pumped hydro developments.

“For more than forty years, Shoalhaven’s pumped hydro scheme has been delivering reliable renewable power to the NSW grid. When it was built in 1977, Shoalhaven was future proofed to allow for more capacity to be added later on, which should reduce the cost and environmental impact of this project.

“The potential expansion of this scheme would provide more electricity over a shorter period so Origin can deliver capacity when needed – when demand is high or when renewable output is low,” he said.

“The findings of this study at Shoalhaven will help provide key understandings that can be applied to other hydro energy projects ARENA has supported such as Snowy 2.0, Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation initiatives, Kidston in Queensland, Cultana and the Iron Duchess in South Australia,” he said.

“We know that storage technologies – both pumped hydro and batteries – will be key to the transition to renewable energy in Australia, which is why we’re supporting projects such as this that will help deliver secure and reliable electricity,” Mr Miller said.

Origin executive general manager energy supply and operations Greg Jarvis said, “We welcome ARENA’s support of a feasibility assessment into the expansion of the Shoalhaven pumped hydro scheme.

“Shoalhaven is in the unique position of having much of the required infrastructure needed for expansion already in place. This means it can be developed with less community and environmental impacts and in a shorter timeframe compared to developing the same amount of additional capacity as a greenfields project.

“This is a strong prospect for future expansion, because Shoalhaven can feed electricity into the grid in as little as three minutes, therefore improving reliability and complementing growing intermittent renewables in the system.

“We will now get on with important assessments and the necessary regulatory approvals that may allow us to double Shoalhaven’s generating capacity in the future,” Mr Jarvis said.

A full feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2019.

This announcement does not form a part of WaterNSW’s current Renewable Energy Expression of Interest process.

 

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

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Sodium-ion battery pilot in Bondi could change the way we store energy

A new trial at Sydney Water’s Bondi sewage pumping station will soon be storing renewable energy through the use of sodium-ion batteries, a cheaper alternative to the traditional lithium-ion batteries in use around the world.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today joined with project participants   to announce commissioning of the $10.6 million renewable energy generation system at the Bondi pumping station which features 6 kW of solar panels, an energy management system and a temporary lithium-ion battery pack.

Sydney Water will use lithium-ion batteries for 12 months to test the energy management system before transitioning to sodium-ion batteries as the first batches of batteries are received from industry partners in China.

The project has been led by energy storage researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) in collaboration with Sydney Water and battery storage manufacturers in China.

Sodium-ion batteries have been developed to be comparable in performance to marketplace alternatives, as well as being cheaper, modular and expandable.

The Bondi pumping station was chosen due to the daily volume of wastewater it moves as well as proving the technology against highly intermittent and impulse-heavy loads.

The system will generate approximately 8,000 kWh of energy each year – more than the Bondi pumping station requires to power its own needs.

This pilot could be scaled up, as Sydney Water has a network of more than 780 sewage pumping stations.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA previously announced $2.7 million in funding for the Smart Sodium Storage Project which will develop and demonstrate sodium-ion batteries in renewable energy storage applications.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “Part of ARENA’s role is to deliver secure and reliable electricity and battery technology will play a major role in allowing variable renewable energy to be dispatchable.”

“Thanks to the contribution of world-leading researchers from the University of Wollongong, these relatively inexpensive and reliable sodium-ion batteries aren’t too far off, potentially reducing our reliance on lithium.

“We’re always excited to support significant R&D which shows promising commercialisation prospects as the novel sodium-ion technology will assist in the faster uptake of renewable and innovative storage solutions for Australia,” Mr Miller said.

ISEM Director Professor Shi Xue Dou said the project was translating research outcomes into tangible impacts for society.

“Sodium-ion batteries are a potential game-changer because the materials are much more abundant than those for traditional lithium-ion batteries, reducing the cost of the raw materials as well as reducing reliance on scarce, expensive lithium.

“Critically, this project will deliver commercial-scale and ready-for-manufacture sodium-ion battery technology that allows lower-cost distributed renewable energy supply to become a reality.” Professor Dou said.

The smart sodium storage solution project will be instrumental in developing the entire supply chain including the product design, development and manufacturing process. The approach of piggybacking on established lithium-ion manufacturing and production processes is also a clever way of not only overcoming the difficulties of such a new technology but the approach will assist in bringing forward sodium-ions demonstration and wider use for storage in Australia and the world.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

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Lake Bonney Battery Energy Storage System

BMS-Inverter Hybrid Project

New Australian performance standards for home battery storage systems

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is helping to develop an Australian performance standard for residential and small-commercial battery systems connected to solar PV systems.

ARENA has today announced $1.4 million in funding to develop the $3.12 million project led by project partner DNV GL, to better inform customers when they’re making a decision to purchase a battery for a home or business.

The project will analyse Australian and international battery performance testing and consult with stakeholders in order to come up with a proposed Australian Battery Performance Standard. This will  initiate the formal standard development process with Standards Australia.

The project has also received $500,000 in funding from the Victorian Government. The project also involves Deakin University, CSIRO and the Smart Energy Council.

The battery standard is intended to cover battery systems ranging from residential to small commercial systems, with an estimated maximum size estimates of 100kW peak power and 200 kWh stored energy, connected to a solar PV system.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said a performance standard for home batteries will help Australian consumers decide what’s best for them.

“The difficulty for consumers to make a well-informed choice presents a barrier to uptake of battery storage,” he said.

“This project will give consumers a more informed choice and increased confidence in deciding to invest in home batteries and rooftop solar. This project will give people easy to access information on how reliable the batteries are and how well they perform over their lifetime in Australian conditions,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Energy storage is a vital component in the transition to a greener energy future, and through efforts of providing the industry with performance standards, we are supporting the safe and sustainable development of the energy storage sector. We look forward to building on these efforts to create a vibrant and lasting energy storage market for Australia,” said Lucy Craig, Vice-President Technology & Innovation for Energy at DNV GL.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

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ARENA to provide $25 million to jointly fund Victoria’s first large-scale, grid-connected batteries

The Australian Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced it will match the $25 million by the Victorian Government to jointly fund Victoria’s first two large-scale, grid-connected batteries as part of the Victorian energy storage initiative.

The $50 million in funding will see the rollout of two battery projects which will together deliver 55 MW of power and can provide approximately 80 MWh of energy storage capacity.

The lithium-ion batteries are to be located at the Gannawarra solar farm near Kerang, and in Warrenheip, Ballarat. Together, these projects will help ease constraints on transmission lines in Western Victoria that currently curtail the output of existing wind and solar farms and will also help to support future renewable generation.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said that this announcement places Australia as a world-leader in battery storage, following grid-scale batteries in South Australia.

“ARENA is excited to be demonstrating the capabilities that these new batteries will provide in securing reliable electricity for western Victoria and to facilitate the Victoria’s transition to renewable energy,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Battery storage will play a crucial role in the future energy mix, alongside other forms of storage and in conjunction with variable renewables and demand management,” he said.

In total, $25 million will be provided to a consortia led by Spotless Sustainability Services to build a 30 MW / 30 MWh large-scale, grid-connected battery located at the Ballarat terminal station. This battery is to supplied by Fluence and owned by AusNet.

This project will demonstrate how batteries can help provide grid stability and support on a congested transmission terminal, at a critical location, reducing the need to expand the substation. The battery will be capable of powering 20,000 homes for an hour.

The battery will help to increase the amount of energy supplied by surrounding wind and solar generation, at reduced cost.

A further $25 million will fund a second battery to be built at Gannawarra near Kerang, Victoria. This 25 MW / 50 MWh battery will co-located and integrated with the 60 MW Gannawarra Solar Farm.

This battery will be owned by Edify Energy and its partner Wirsol, and the battery will be supplied by Tesla.

This project will demonstrate how an existing solar farm can be retrofitted with battery storage.

Both batteries will be operated by EnergyAustralia under long-term offtake agreements.

Both Victorian batteries will help demonstrate how large-scale batteries can provide different benefits to the electricity system, including improving grid stability and power quality, and how they can help integrate more variable renewable energy into the grid.

Construction is due to commence this month, with both batteries to be commissioned in time for the summer peak.

Spotless CEO Dana Nelson said: “It’s an exciting time for Spotless and the utilities industry. Spotless is pleased to take a lead role to introduce renewable energy solutions. We’ve brought together leading utilities experience and proven energy storage technology to deliver this Victorian first.”

Edify Energy CEO John Cole said: “We are very proud to have designed and delivered the first combined utility scale solar and storage facility in Victoria. It is unprecedented in Australia at this scale and is among the largest in the world.

“The team has worked tirelessly to overcome many regulatory, technical and commercial challenges and create a very cool project – one that can deploy solar power at night. Without a doubt as the cost of battery storage falls, we see solar and storage becoming a ‘category killer’ in the energy sector and accelerating Australia’s transition to a clean energy future,” he said.

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 126KB)

How we’re getting involved with Australia’s next big energy export: Hydrogen

Australia is a nation of abundant renewable energy resources and advantages. We are already taking advantage of that fact, with solar and wind farms popping up all around the country.

But what if we could create a new industry that helps take that to the world?

As Australia continues its shift towards renewable energy, storage has become just as big a priority as production. We’ve long used pumped hydro as a means to store energy and are now incorporating batteries into that equation. But what if there was another alternative, one that doesn’t need to be combusted, can be loaded up and transported where demand is, and could be used to create a whole new export industry for Australia?

Enter, Hydrogen.

ARENA is preparing for the first time to open up a funding round to drive research and development into exporting renewable hydrogen, and has allocated $20 million to do so.

Starting this December, ARENA will look to fund projects involving all stages of the energy supply chain from production, storage, transport and end-use.

READ MORE: ADVISIAN’S PHIL O’NEIL ON HYDROGEN’S POTENTIAL FOR EXPORT

“Hydrogen is set to play a larger role in the renewable energy space not only in Australia, but around the world,” ARENA Chief Executive Ivor Frischknecht said.

“The potential for hydrogen to be a carrier of renewable energy is limitless which is why ARENA will be funding projects from the production of hydrogen all the way to transporting and end use. The capability to supply renewable hydrogen at a competitive price is likely to lead to investment throughout the rest of the supply chain, including dedicated renewables for export.”

The funding round follows the recent request for information (RFI) which sought input from industry, research institutions and governments to assess how Australia might develop export capabilities based around renewable energy and hydrogen.

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WHY ARE WE FUNDING HYDROGEN PROJECTS?

Recently the CSIRO announced it was investing $13.5 million in a program aimed to make Australia a hydrogen fuel leader.

Around the world, hydrogen is seen as having significant potential as an alternative to fossil fuels. This is why we’ve signalled the importance of exporting renewable energy by making the concept one of the agency’s four investment priorities.

The large number of responses from ARENA’s recent RFI ranged from organisations to individuals. But across all the responses received, one thing stood out; Australia is positioned perfectly to take advantage of and become leaders in the creation and export of hydrogen to the world.

ARENA’s support can provide a positive impact to Australian businesses, universities and organisations that are involved in the research and development of hydrogen.

PODCAST: HOW TWO RMIT RESEARCHERS MADE A HYDROGEN-GENERATING SOLAR PAINT

WHAT ARE WE LOOKING TO FUND?

ARENA is looking towards the long-term future, to an Australia that has developed its renewable energy production capacity to the point where domestic demand is met. We want to ensure that Australia is poised to capitalise on this scenario, by investing in the development of an end-to-end renewable energy supply chain, centering on hydrogen.

ARENA will be considering research and development project applications involving all stages of the energy supply chain, from using Australian renewables to produce hydrogen, all the way up to innovative technologies that can be deployed internationally to reconvert hydrogen back into green energy. Here’s a look at the key areas we’re interested in funding:

PRODUCTION

There are many ways of producing hydrogen from the more well-known method of electrolysis, to heat and chemical processes, to using sunlight and even biological processes. ARENA will be looking for innovative projects that use renewable energy to produce hydrogen, with the potential to lower costs in a future supply chain.

STORAGE

Despite hydrogen’s many useful qualities, it’s difficult to transport. As a gas it holds little energy for the volume that it takes up, requiring large containers, and the molecule itself is so small that it can pass through steel.

To make a viable export chain, any hydrogen produced in Australia will need to be converted into something that can be put onto a ship. Our researchers may hold the key to solving this problem, with many possible conversions to materials such as liquified hydrogen, other chemicals like ammonia, or adsorption onto novel materials such as nanostructures. If hydrogen is needed at the point of use, reconversion methods will also need to be developed.

Australia’s gas utilities currently have more than 88,000km of distribution pipelines installed throughout the country.

Renewable hydrogen has the potential to be injected into the the gas grid, essentially decarbonising the gas grid and acting as a storage option for the element. ARENA recently provided $5 million to Aquahydrex to fund their new class of electrolyser which will produce cheap hydrogen with a small percentage being placed into the gas grid.

END-USE

Probably the most obvious use for hydrogen is as a fuel in hydrogen vehicles, but similar technology can also provide electricity in residential homes. ARENA will be looking at projects that provide innovative solutions to deriving energy from hydrogen gas, or even directly from the material that is transported without the need for reconversion.

WHEN CAN I APPLY?

Applications for the $20 million funding round will open on 20 December 2017 until 28 February 2018.

More information on the application process.

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The future of energy storage looks bright. And we’re right in the middle of it

It’s a message that creates both excitement and trepidation.

Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented energy transformation.

It’s already happening fast and is set to accelerate and intensify in coming years.

But it won’t happen smoothly if we don’t make sure we are prepared.
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That was the key message from a study commissioned by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and  carried out by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA).

The report, released on Monday, is both bullish about the rise of renewable energy and optimistic about the role storage can play in making sure the transformation is orderly and controlled

It finds that even if renewables jumped to make up 50 per cent of our electricity mix by 2030, reliability of supply (making sure daily electricity needs are met) could be achieved without significant investment in energy storage.

But the pressing need to ensure security of the energy system (protection against system-wide failure such as blackouts) should drive an increase in storage, the report finds.

And with increased investment will come increased rewards, such as new export industries for the nation and lower prices for energy consumers.

“The challenge is to manage the transition from here to there. We are going to be moving to a new future, it’s happening around the world, it’s inevitable,” Dr Finkel said.

“What this report shows is that if storage is used effectively, we can manage that transition smoothly at the lowest possible price.”

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The report goes into detail about a range of storage solutions that will likely be part of the future mix, ensuring that the baseload power that has dominated Australia’s past is slowly replaced by renewable sources of generation, supplemented by storage systems that can dispatch power at times of need.

“Over the past decade, Australia’s electricity market has experienced change on an unprecedented scale,” the report argues.

“Energy storage has the potential to upend the industry structures, both physical and economic, that have defined power markets for the last century.”

The actual mix of storage or other technologies used will depend on market dynamics, policy settings and consumer preferences, the report notes. It models three different versions of a possible 2030 energy market: a high renewable energy model (in which renewables make up 75 per cent of the electricity mix) as well as mid (50 per cent) and low (35 per cent) models.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

Even assuming for the high renewables option, the costs, which appear large at first glance, are actually quite reasonable.

Meeting the storage needs for the high RE model would cost $43 billion if pumped hydro alone was used (which the report says is unlikely) or $22 billion for a batteries only solution.

But the report notes that the current cost of maintaining the NEM, extrapolated forward to 2030, would total $70 billion.

Many of the observations the report’s authors make align closely with ARENA’s priorities and the projects it has been funding. Here are a few areas where we are already helping to advance the nation’s storage capabilities.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong are working on a sodium battery. IMAGE: UOW.

 

EXPORT

The report finds that a combination of available lithium resources and current research capabilities means that “Australia has the potential to become a world leader” when it comes to battery storage.

This is unlikely to happen for existing forms of the technology, it finds, but could be the case for the next generation of batteries.

ARENA says: We are investing in several projects that aim to push the technology of battery storage forward. This includes working with CSIRO on potential applications for their ‘Ultra battery’.

ARENA is also funding researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney who are working on a prototype lithium-sulfur battery for renewable energy storage and scientists at University of Wollongong, who are developing a ‘salt battery’ that uses sodium in place of lithium and could result in a cheaper form of battery, suited to home storage.

HYDROGEN

“There are opportunities to use our solar energy resources to produce and export renewable hydrogen and ammonia,” the report says, “enabling growth of a new industry that may be suited to northern Australia.”

And when you ask Dr Finkel about what excites him about the report he is quick to bring up hydrogen.

“It’s looking at the opportunity to export sunshine, take sunshine, wind, renewable electricity, and use that through electrolysis to make hydrogen and from hydrogen you make ammonia,” he said.

“And ammonia is easy to ship and you can send it to countries that have indicated that they will have a not only growing, but a huge demand for hydrogen.”

ARENA says: We couldn’t agree more. Exporting renewable energy was adopted as one of ARENA’s four new priorities earlier this year and we have recently called for information from global players regarding the potential for creating an Australian export industry that produces hydrogen via electrolysis powered by renewable energy and exports it to recipients such as Japan and South Korea.

READ MORE: HOW RENEWABLE ENERGY COULD BE OUR NEXT GREAT EXPORT

The ACOLA report also sees potential for using renewable energy to create hydrogen and then pump it into the existing gas grid, where it mixes with LNG and can be safely used as fuel for household appliances such as heaters and stoves.

ARENA is currently trialling a ‘power to gas’ project in Adelaide, that aims to do just that.

 

PUMPED HYDRO

“Pumped hydro was found to be a low risk, low impact technology,” the report finds. “Despite the geographic limitations for pumped hydro, and the time (years) to implement new facilities, it is a technology that offers much potential for deployment in the grid.”

ARENA says: We’ve funded several pumped hydro feasibility studies in the past 12 months. At Kidston in North Queensland we’re helping bring about a renewable energy hub that will reconfigure a disused gold mine to create a co-located solar farm and pumped hydro system.

We’re supporting the “Snowy 2.0’’ feasibility study, which is expected to report preliminary results soon and we have also contributed to the “battery of the nation’” feasibility studies that are investigating the potential for Tasmania to be a pumped hydro powerhouse.

The ACOLA report also cites the ARENA-backed Energy Australia feasibility study into a possible pumped hydro site using seawater at Cultana in South Australia.

And world-leading researcher Andrew Blakers has been preparing an “atlas” of potential pumped hydro sites around the country, with funding support from ARENA.

In short: We’re pretty excited about the potential of pumped hydro too.

 

RECYCLING

The report urges the importance of examining the full cost of battery storage, taking into account the embodied energy and materials needed to construct batteries and arguing for investment in research that will improve the reusability of battery-making materials.

ARENA says: We’ve argued this year for the importance of life-cycle assessments in determining the potential cost and benefits of renewable technology and have begun a process of adopting this approach in some areas.

We’ve also supported efforts to reduce waste via projects such as the Clean Energy Innovation Fund’s Relectrify project – which allows for depleted electric vehicle batteries to be reused as household storage.


FURTHER WORK

While Dr Finkel was at pains to point out that the ACOLA report does not “make recommendations” it does argue for further work to be carried out in several areas. ARENA is well situated to be a key driver in ensuring this work is undertaken.

  1. “The optimum balance of generation, storage and interconnection, taking into account cost optimisation and the long term strategic opportunities for Australia.”

ARENA says:  Our dispatchable renewables study, currently underway, is an important first step in examining some of these crucial questions. Which forms of storage are likely to offer greatest return on investment? Which are best suited to different conditions? How will multiple technologies interact, combine and behave? Stay tuned in coming months, we’ll have plenty to say about these questions.

  1. “The role of ‘prosumers’ including their effects on the market, the system (equity and pricing concerns) and on their contribution to the energy transformation that is underway.”

ARENA says: We are currently funding a number of projects that aim to shed light on such questions. ARENA recently announced funding of $1.92 million for Horizon Power’s trial of how prosumers behave in a microgrid setting.

We’ve also contributed $450,000 to assist the creation of dEX, a digital energy exchange that will assist markets to allow prosumers to be rewarded for the services they can provide to the system.

A  number of ARENA projects are also trialling ‘virtual power plant’ software that allows distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar to be aggregated and coordinated, enabling energy retailers and other energy market participants to get better at harnessing the power offered by prosumers.

SYSTEM SECURITY

The security of our electricity system relies upon its ability to transition from one balance of supply and demand to another, the report says. If supply and demand cannot be kept in balance, instability occurs. The challenge of maintaining that balance becomes more difficult as wind and solar are added to the system.

Batteries are a significant part of the answer here but other innovative forms of frequency control, such as the inverters of wind and solar farms also can play a part.

ARENA says: South Australia announced a 100MW Tesla battery would be built for this summer, as a key method for ensuring dispatchable power is on hand when required for system reliability. ARENA has also funded a large scale battery in the state: the $30 million, 30MW ESCRI battery, which will provide a range of valuable grid support services, including frequency control.

We’re also pushing ahead with a trial at Hornsdale in South Australia, examining how effective wind farms can be at offering the type of frequency control that, until now in Australia, has been almost entirely provided by fossil-fuel fired power stations.

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The cheap, abundant substance that could revolutionise how we store energy

Solar and wind power are vital to meeting our current and future energy needs but they don’t generate electricity 24/7. So to ensure our power system stays reliable as more renewables come online, we need energy storage.  

And a good deal of that storage currently comes in the form of lithium-ion batteries – the same things that power your phone and laptop.

They also include the large batteries unveiled by Tesla on the nightly news as well as the batteries in your electric car and the ones hooked up to your rooftop solar system. Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere.

The problem with lithium is that it’s an extremely limited resource, making up less than 0.002% of the Earth’s crust. Lithium’s scarcity makes it expensive, and the price will probably go even higher as the global demand for storage keeps rising.

Enter sodium. One of the two elements in ordinary salt, sodium is as cheap as (salted) chips and has a near-unlimited supply. And thanks to a team of world-leading researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW), inexpensive and reliable sodium-ion batteries are only a few years away.

Dr Shulei Chou in the ISEM labs. IMAGE: UoW

 

HOW IT WORKS

Supported by $2.7 million of ARENA funding, the $10.6 million battery project will develop modular, expandable sodium-ion batteries optimised for renewable energy applications.

The researchers are currently working out the sodium-ion chemistry that is best suited to large-scale applications. They have partnered with leading Chinese manufacturers to develop the sodium-ion cells and make them into 5 kilowatt-hour (kWh) packs that can be stacked together to create any size battery.

“Sodium-ion batteries are a field receiving intense research interest,” says Professor Shi Xue Dou, who leads the project.

Project leader Professor Shi Xue Dou in the laboratory. IMAGE: UoW.

 

“However, much of the work has been on the lab-scale development of materials. This is one of the first projects to focus on scaling up the production of sodium-ion materials and establishing the production capacity to manufacture sodium-ion battery cells at a commercial scale.”

“We’ve had to develop a number of innovative approaches to address the issues that arise in scaling up this cutting-edge storage technology.”

REAL-WORLD TESTING

The battery packs will get their first proper test at the Illawarra Flame House, an award-winning sustainable home on UOW’s Innovation Campus.

“We’ll be testing a single module in a residential-type application,” says Project Manager Jon Knott.

“The Flame House can be hired out, so it’s often full of people. That means we can get usage patterns and start to see how the battery charges and discharges, and what sort of degradation we can expect to see in real-world batteries.”

SOLAR, SODIUM AND SEWAGE

The big test will come in 2019, when project partner Sydney Water installs a 30 kWh sodium-ion battery at their sewage pumping station in Bondi. The battery will be charged by solar panels on the pumping station roof and controlled by a UOW-developed energy management system (EMS).  

Bondi Water Treatment Plant

“The EMS is a set of software controls and algorithms that figure out the best way to use power,” Knott says. “If the solar panels are generating, should you use that power straight away, use it to charge the battery or sell it back to the grid?”

Pumping stations have fairly unpredictable energy requirements – the pumps turn on and off automatically depending on the level in the tanks. That means the EMS needs to be extremely intelligent to plan for the station’s upcoming power needs. It could even check the weather schedule.

“If the system can predict there’s going to be five sunny days in a row, we can perhaps empty the batteries a little bit more than we could if we knew it was going to be raining,” Knott says.

Inside the Sydney Water pumping station. IMAGE: UoW.

“Installing cheap sodium-ion storage is about more than just reducing Sydney Water’s electricity bill,” says Dr Heri Bustamante, Principal Scientist, Treatment at Sydney Water.

“It also increases resilience by integrating renewable energy technologies into our infrastructure and processes. If a pumping station loses power, it can’t pump, which leads to messy and environmentally disastrous sewage spills. Reliable energy storage can ensure the sewage network keeps operating, even during extreme weather or natural disasters.”

“Part of the reason why we’re in this is to see if we can run pumping stations off grid,” says Ruben Muller, Sydney Water’s Resource Management Advisor. “For example, we’ve got a pumping station in the Blue Mountains where there is a risk of losing grid supply during bushfires. We could run a second feeder to it from another direction, or we could just install solar and a battery, which I think is a much better solution.”

Does size matter?

So if sodium batteries can deliver comparable performance at a lower cost, do we even need lithium any more? According to Knott, both technologies most likely have a place in the future of energy storage.

“Sodium is a larger atom to start with, so sodium-ion batteries are always going to be larger than a lithium battery,” he says.

“Lithium is good for phones and electric vehicles where you want light, small batteries that have a lot of energy. But in a house or industrial application where you’ve got batteries hanging on the wall or sitting on the floor, it doesn’t matter if they are a little bit bigger or heavier. Sodium can be a sister technology.”

Relectrify giving electric vehicle batteries a second life

A Melbourne start up business Relectrify is set to launch its ground-breaking technology
which repurposes used batteries from electric vehicles (EV) for use as behind-the-meter
household energy storage.

Relectrify has developed advanced battery control technology that reduces the cost of
repurposing electric vehicle batteries, while boosting performance and lifetime. The
technology combines both power electronics hardware and battery optimisation
software.

Once EV batteries reach the end of their life and can no provide the driving range and
acceleration required, up to 80 per cent of the storage capability remains.

With $750,000 in early stage equity investment from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund on
behalf of the Australian Government, Relectrify will expand production and commercial
trials on second life batteries, with the aim of becoming a global leader.

The Innovation Fund is a $200 million fund for innovative clean energy, renewable energy
and energy efficiency projects and businesses. The fund is an initiative of the Clean Energy
Finance Corporation (CEFC) in conjunction with Australian Renewable Energy Agency
(ARENA). The fund draws on the expertise of both agencies.

Relectrify was co-founded by Daniel Crowley and Valentin Muenzel in 2015, and the
company is an alumni of the Melbourne Accelerator at the University of Melbourne.

The Innovation Fund’s investment is part of Relectrify’s $1.5 million pre-Series A equity raising.

Relectrify CEO and Co-founder Valentin Muenzel said recycled batteries could be
repurposed widely, including for 12V batteries, household solar battery systems and
grid-scale storage.

“Batteries are becoming a fundamental building block of the new energy industry and
seeing significant uptake across households, businesses and the power grid. And this is
just the beginning. There is an immense need for affordable and capable storage across
almost all parts of our lives now and in the future.

“When electric vehicles can no longer provide the driving range and acceleration required,
most batteries can still be charged and discharged a further 2000 times. The trouble was
large battery packs contain hundreds of individual cells, and if one isn’t working, the
whole system stops functioning.

“To fix this problem, Relectrify assembled a world-class team of engineers to develop our
own technology that would reduce the cost of repurposing the batteries, boost their
performance and increase their longevity,” he said.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Relectrify’s technology to recycle batteries would
reduce waste and make home storage more affordable.

“Relectrify is led by bright and passionate Melbourne-based founders who are looking to
bring an innovative idea to renewable energy storage solutions that can significantly lower
the cost of energy storage in a sustainable way.

“We’re excited to see how the technology develops and is adopted not only by Australian
consumers, but consumers around the world,” he said.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said potential applications for Relectrify’s forward-thinking
technology can be adopted across the whole economy to have a significant impact on the
way Australians use energy.

“Although home batteries are only a tiny part of our energy storage today, industry experts
are saying they could be capable of storing around 15 gigawatt hours by 2035. That’s
enough stored electricity to power South Australia’s current summer peak demand for five
hours,” Mr Learmonth said.

“And while electric vehicles currently make up only around 0.2 per cent of vehicle sales in
Australia, by 2035 they are expected to represent just over one quarter. That translates to
an increasing supply of lithium ion batteries that are no longer useful in cars, but are still
incredibly capable for other applications.

“It’s important to rapidly develop technologies like Relectrify’s, to ensure we are well placed
to take advantage of high performance, reliable and cost-effective energy storage solutions
that assist in the transition of the energy system, as well as reduce the environmental
impact of used equipment through repurposing it.”

For further information, visit relectrify.com, arena.gov.au and cefc.com.au

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 | media@arena.gov.au

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